A popular saying goes, “I don’t get mad; I get even.” The desire for payback is understandable. In its righteous form, it reflects a longing for justice. When the fifth seal is broken, the martyrs cry from under the altar: “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (v. 10). No one reproves them for this sentiment. Just the opposite—each one is given a white robe and told to wait until the full number of their companions have been killed.
The appearance of the martyrs in heaven reminds us that God’s people are often affected by the collateral damage of divine judgment. This was certainly true in the Old Testament. When a famine came because of Israel’s sin, the godly went hungry along with the ungodly. When Israel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, the righteous were carried off along with the wicked. When God works out His plan in the Last Days, some who follow the Lamb will suffer. When the martyrs die, the sinful world loses—not only because God will call to account those who killed them but also the world loses the possibility of blessing from their presence.
Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” If this is true of death in general, how much more true of those whose lives are taken because of their testimony for Jesus Christ? God does not treat the death of the martyrs lightly. In John’s vision they are accorded a place of special honor. Their location under the altar signals the fact that God regards their death as a kind of offering. Just as the blood of the sacrifice was poured out before God, so too was their blood shed.
Are you struggling with an injustice done to you because of your testimony for Christ? Maybe it was a slight or a ruptured relationship. Perhaps it was the loss of professional opportunities or a public humiliation, or worse. Pray and put the matter in God’s hands. He does not take the matter lightly. He sees, He cares, and He will have the victory.