“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been 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, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11.
The four horsemen having been released with the breaking of the first four seals will run throughout the tribulation, so their influence will last the entire seven years.
The seven year period which begins, not with the rapture of the church, but when the first horseman, the beast (Antichrist), signs a covenant with Israel.
This covenant is difficult to explain without going to the book of Daniel, often called the Revelation of the Old Testament. This prophecy concerns seventy weeks of time through the end of the tribulation which begins with the seventieth week.
A week of years is seven years, so seventy times seven equals a period of 490 years. The narrative starts with verse 24 but we will start with verse 25 for brevity.
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem [issued by Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 B.C.] until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times [completed in 49 years, or 7 weeks]. And after the [another] sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself [Jesus crucified 434 years later 62 weeks]; and the people [Romans in 70 A.D.] of the prince who is to come [the beast] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he [the beast] shall confirm a covenant with many for [7 years] one week; but in the middle of the week [3 ½ years] he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” Daniel 9:25-27.
These dates, including the date of the crucifixion, were calculated by Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) in his book, “The Coming Prince”, not an easy read. If you find the book of Daniel of interest, “A Commentary on Daniel”, by Leon Wood; publisher, Zondervan, is very informative.
Having said all of this, you can see from the first sentence of Daniel 9:27 shown again below, that the tribulation of seven years begins, not with the rapture, but with the signing of the covenant (treaty) with the beast.
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many [of the Jews] for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” Daniel 9:27a.
Earlier, in Daniel 9:24 it is shown that the prophecy of the seventy weeks concerns the people of Israel, not the church.
“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city…” Daniel 9:24a.
There is also a gap of time between the sixty-ninth week, Christ’s death and resurrection, and the seventieth week, Christ’s return to rule (some 2000 years later). This gap is a parenthetical period in the history of Israel, known to us as the church age.
This is why the church is not mentioned during the tribulation, it is gone, and Israel replaces it as the historical clock starts again.
So with the horsemen running amuck we come to a time within this seven year period, perhaps near the middle when the martyrs of Christ are revealed to us by the fifth seal.
Since it is very likely that these martyrs revealed here were killed in the first half of the tribulation, most of this bloodbath will be by the hand of the powers of the apostate super-church which rises up some time after the rapture of the true church of Christ. This will be discussed when we come to Revelation chapter 17.
We learn two things immediately, and that is that Christians will be killed for their faith, in the same manner as the cruel Roman games or the horrors of the demonically inspired Inquisition; and that they exhibit a lot of courage.
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been 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, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” Revelation 6:9-10.
Though the words “How long, O Lord” seems to me to be more of a rhetorical question, the answer to that question may fascinate you. Again the answer is in Daniel.
“He [the beast] shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time [3 ½ years].” Daniel 7:25.
As we will see later on the three and a half years mentioned here is the second half of the tribulation. So the answer to the question, “How long” is three and a half years, the end of the tribulation.
These martyrs for Christ are given white robes which have been, as seen later in Revelation 7:14 washed in the blood of the Lamb and made white.
They are told to rest a while longer.
“Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Revelation 6:11.
There is a number known only to God and when it is completed the end will come. The same holds true for the church, when the last person is added to the church through salvation in Christ, the church will be removed from the earth.
“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” Revelation 6:12.
This and the rest of the chapter are taken by many to be events that happen before those of chapter seven; this cannot possibly be true, these things are clearly a description of the disasters of the second half of the tribulation and of the glorious appearing of Christ.
Since there are many earthquakes throughout the tribulation, there is no case to be made here. The sun and the moon however are another story; serious darkness like this does not come until the fifth bowl of God’s wrath is poured out.
“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness…” Revelation 16:10.
The beast’s kingdom is the whole earth, so the entire earth becomes darkened. It is likely that this event occurs within weeks of the end of the tribulation.
“And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.” Revelation 6:13.
The simplest solution to this statement is that it describes a tremendous meteor shower, and while most meteors burn up in the atmosphere; this could be a dangerous and terrifying situation. And then there is this:
“So the great dragon was cast out [of heaven], that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9.
This passage in chapter 12, which refers to Satan being cast out of heaven, does not refer to the third heaven where God dwells but rather to the second heaven, outer space.
Angels are referred to as stars at times, as in the case of the fallen angel in the verse below.
“Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. And to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” Revelation 9:1.
So then, it is possible that these stars of heaven that fall to earth are Satan and his angels in the middle of the tribulation.
“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9.
“Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Revelation 12:12.
Revelation 6:9-13 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 11-12-16, updated on 6-28-22.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.