Difficult Texts
"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: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ? 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."

Several facts appear from this symbolic account of the fifth seal:

1. These figurative souls of the martyrs are not pictured in heaven, but under the altar.

2. They show signs of being not merely unhappy, but tortured.

3. Quite contrary to Christ's instruction to pray for them which persecute you (Matthew 5:44), these saintly souls are represented as demanding vengeance on their persecutors.

4. This is an example of personification, when objects are assigned personal attributes· Such is the case of Abel's blood crying out from the ground (Genesis 4:9, 10). In this sense, the lives of the martyrs are portrayed as crying out for vengeance.

5. If this is not figurative language and if souls are disembodied, how do they wear robes? Obviously these verses are not related to any so-called "immortal souls" of the dead.