(9) Now when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had given. (10) They cried out with a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” (11) Each of them was given a long white robe and they were told to rest for a little longer, until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been. (Rev 6:9–11 NET)
(9) A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, (10) that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. (11) And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.” (12) This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus. (13) Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: ‘Blessed are the dead, those who die in the Lord from this moment on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their hard work, because their deeds will follow them.” (Rev 14:9–13 NET)
In the past, I have argued that the fourth and fifth seal represents the period of the Antichrist’s great tribulation, rather than the seals covering church history of thousands of years. Another reason for this is found in Revelation 14:9–13.
Chapters 12–14 is a parenthesis that gives a panoramic view of the kingdom conflict between Satan and God, spanning from the period of the Messianic-kingdom promise during Israel’s history all the way up to the eschatological harvests of deliverance and judgment at Christ’s coming. But the main emphasis in 12–14, giving a fuller description, is on the key event of the Beast’s great tribulation.
One of the parts to this section is a third angel warning about the consequences of taking the mark of the beast. Accordingly, there is the exhortation to believers to have faith-endurance as they are tempted to take the mark (cf. Rev 13:7–10).
There is a striking parallel between the third-angel passage and the fifth seal. Revelation 14:13 states, “Blessed are the dead, those who die in the Lord from this moment on!” This implies that that those who die will be martyred because they refused to take the mark and worship Antichrist’s image, for they are considered “blessed.” In addition, the phrase, “from this moment on,” establishes a temporal point linking it to the period of the mark, which is the great tribulation.
The fifth seal states: “until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been.” This concept of future-looking martyrdom is also found here, suggesting that the martyrs will die in close proximity, not over thousands of years. In addition, both parallels indicate a decreed purpose for their martyrdom.
The fifth seal gives a heavenly perspective, while the third-angel passage gives an earthly perspective. It should also be noted that the fourth seal, as I have argued elsewhere, represents the beasts as Antichrist and the false prophet, implying their mark and image system. And given that the third-angel passage links the mark of the beast with those who die in the Lord, it can be seen as an expansion on the fifth seal.