What does Rev. 6:9-11 mean when it describes the souls under the alter crying with a loud voice saying "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?"


Personification is a common Biblical method of describing situations with symbolic language. After Cain killed Abel, the Lord said to Cain, "the voice of your brother's blood cries to me from the ground (Gen. 4:10). Was Abel's blood really speaking? No! Not literally. The language communicates God's faithful loving, tender concern for His martyr Abel and Cain's accountability for his sinful act.

According to Heb. 12:24, "The blood of Jesus speaks better things than that of Abel." It communicates forgiveness, mercy, and redemption. Certainly the blood of Jesus is not literally speaking. The language communicates God's message of redemption. In Rev. 6, God clearly communicates that He has not forgotten His faithful martyrs through the centuries.

Their blood symbolically cries out for God to bring justice upon their persecutors and to reward the faithful ones with eternity. In the Bible, the word soul often means "person or people" (Rom. 13:1, Ezek. 18:4, Acts 27:37). It also means life (see Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 4:19, Matt. 10:28). Thus Rev. 6:9 could read, "the lives of those people martyred for Jesus, symbolically like Abel's blood, cry out from the ground for justice." There will be a final judgment and God Himself will set all things right!

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man goes immediately to hell and Lazarus to heaven. How do you explain this parable if the dead are sleeping (Lk. 16:19-31)?


It's important to notice this is a parable. It is the fifth in a series of parables. (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost boy (Lk. 15), and the unjust steward (Lk. 16:1-11). Parables are designed to teach great moral principles. Each feature of the parable is not to be taken literally. For example, we do not all have wool and four feet like sheep. We are not metal like a silver coin.

 

The question in each parable is what are the great moral lessons. We get in deep trouble if we attempt to take each detail of the parable literally rather than seek the lesson Jesus is trying to teach. Let's assume that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a literal story. Do people actually have conversations between heaven and hell? Can those in heaven see people burning in hell? Can they hear their screams? Do souls actually have fingers and tongues as described in the parable? Abraham must have a large bosom to contain all the individuals who go there?

To take the parable literally is to create huge problems. Heaven would be a terrible place if we beheld the constant, ever present suffering of our friends. Why did Jesus use this story? What lessons was He trying to teach? The Jews had a common valley of darkness picturing salvation as fleeing to the security of Abraham's bosom and eternal loss going to destruction.

Jesus used this story to teach three lessons. First, the Jews believed riches were a sign of God's favor and poverty a sign of His displeasure. In the story, the rich man who the Jews thought was blessed of God ends up in hell and the poor man in heaven. Jesus reversed the expected outcome.

  1. Riches gained by greed, dishonesty or oppressing the poor are not a sign of God's favor at all.
  2. The parable describes a great gulf fixed. Jesus clearly communicated that there is no second chance after death. The decision made in life determines our eternal destiny.
  3. Jesus points out that if the Pharisees rejected the clear teachings of God's word regarding salvation, they would also reject such a mighty, supernatural spectacular miracle as one rising from the dead.

The Jews were always asking Jesus for a sign. He gave them the greatest sign. A short while later, He raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:11-14, 43, 44). As the result, the Jews became threatened and attempted to kill Lazarus (Jn. 12:10). They also became so angry at Jesus they were so deceived that they plotted to destroy Jesus as well. They had read the Bible with a veil over their eyes. (2 Cor. 3:14-16) They had failed to understand that "all the scriptures" testify of Jesus (Jn. 5:39). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they did not believe. His words in Lk. 16:31 were prophetic: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." What an appeal! What an urgent warning. Scripture is our final authority. Jesus used a popular Jewish story to illustrate this powerful truth, thus all the Bible harmonizes beautifully.

What does Paul mean by the expression "absent from the body and present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6, 8)?


In 2 Cor. 5:1-11, Paul contrasts the earthly perishable body subject to sickness, diseases, and death with the glorious, eternal, immortal body which God has prepared for us in the heavens. The expression "absent from the body" means absent from the mortal body with its earthly infirmities. The expression present with the Lord means present in the glorious immortal body received at Jesus second coming.

2 Cor. 5:4 gives us a clue when the apostle longs for "mortality to be swallowed up of life." These words echo the words Paul wrote earlier in 1 Cor. 15:51-54, "we shall put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality." In 2 Cor. 5 as well as 1 Cor. 15, Paul longs for the immortality bestowed at Jesus' Second Coming (See also 2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Doesn't Paul imply that an individual goes directly to heaven at death by stating that he "desires to depart and be with Christ" and "death is gain" (Phil. 1:21, 23)?


The Bible does not contradict itself. Paul doesn't state one thing in one place and another someplace else. The apostle is clear. At the Second Coming of Jesus, the righteous dead are resurrected to receive their eternal reward (1 Thess. 4:16, 17, 1 Cor. 15:51-54). In Phil. 3:20,21 the apostle points out that "our citizenship is in heaven from whence also we look for the Savior the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body that it might be fashioned like His glorious body."

Again his desire is the Second Coming of our Lord. Writing to his friend, Timothy, the apostle declares from this same Roman prison, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7, 8). Paul longed for the return of Jesus when he would see his Lord face to face and be ushered into eternity.

Yes, death is gain! For the apostle it meant freedom from the pain of a weary body, deliverance from the bondage of a Roman prison, and security from the temptation of Satan. To Paul, death was a sleep with no passage of time. The next event after closing his eyes in the sleep of death was "to depart and be with Christ." Since there is no conscious passage of time from death to the Second Coming, for Paul, death meant closing his eyes in sleep and waking up to be with his Lord.