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?” 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 6:9-11)
How Long, O Lord
The Revelation given to the apostle John was in incredible visualization of the judgment of God against worldly powers standing against the kingdom of Christ. Whether it was the powers of government, influences of the carnal nature, or religious persecution, victory would be achieved through the blood of Jesus Christ and His great army. The Christians who lived under the plague of persecution would endure a period of nearly two hundred years when the entire world stood against them. In the face of such a terrible ordeal that tried to destroy the church, the people of God rose from the ashes of despair and gained the victory through their faith in the will of the Lord and the promise of eternal life.
In the midst of their suffering, the cry for help was heard as the fifth seal is described in the Revelation. Many of God’s people had been slain for the word of the Lord and it seemed to never end. The testimony of righteousness was not destroyed by the death of the saints but exalted in their example of trusting the will of the Father. There was a sense of urgency that demanded an answer as they cried out with a loud voice, “How long, O Lord?” They were no doubting the power of God. The cry of the saints declared God to be holy and true. What was happening to them was promised by Jesus that if the world hated Him, the world would hate His followers. The holiness of the Lord was not diminished by the persecution. His truth was as bold as the first day it was declared on Pentecost. All the saints lifted up their voice to declare that no matter how terrible the conditions of the world, God was still holy and true and He was still the Judge.
Mixed in the cries of their plea to the Father was a child-like heart seeking for answers. They just wanted to know when the suffering would be over and when righteous judgment would be vetted against the forces of evil. Their answer came in time. It may have come in their death when released from the bondage of mortality when the blessed saints died in the Lord. The full scale of persecution for the world would not end until the days of Constantine. Regardless, a great event came to an end. The patience of the saints had won the day and the church remains strong and courageous for centuries since and centuries to come.
The world is not under the heavy hand of persecution. There is no considered effort by the government to oppress the church. For many years the carnal nature of sin has attacked the church trying to destroy its foundations. There has been no religious persecution by other religions against the principles of the church. In the face of the present distress, the question remains to ask, “How long, O Lord?” The pandemic that has swept the world is a moment in history almost without parallel. There have been many plagues that have swept through the course of humanity but few on the global scale as COVID-19. It has shattered all precepts of normalcy. The world will never be the same in many regards. The question remains, “how long?”
Certain things should be understood about the global virus. It will come to an end. All things come to an end. The question is not if it will stop but when will it stop. This answer is unknown. Why has the world been gripped with the pandemic? Many pundits surmise a righteous hand of God or even the evil work of Satan responsible. Again these answers evade the heart of human wisdom. Some lessons should be taken from God’s perspective of trying to remind man what is important in life and what is not. Ultimately the clear truth is that God is still in control and He has allowed this virus to reach global proportions. In everything that happens in the world, there are lessons to be learned from the mind of God. Whatever role Satan has played in the situation is secondary to insignificance.
The church has been greatly impacted by the virus. Assemblies have been rearranged, reordered, retooled, and rethought on how to continue the work of teaching, admonishing, evangelism, and worship. Bible classes have been impacted, the fellowship of the saints is conducted with greater care and the outlook for the local church is changed forever. What changes will take place and how long these must be in place is unknown. It does not suggest a lack of faith to ask ‘how long’ as the appeal is for the work of the church to return to a vibrancy of teaching. But could that be the chiming of the bell to warn the people of God to awaken from the slumber of the past century that has deadened the efforts of the church? Is there a deeper message from the Lord when He answers back to revive the spirit of the New Testament church and take the gospel into all the world? The future is uncertain in many ways but the certainty of the future remains rooted in the will of the Father. No matter what happens, God is holy and true and He will be glorified. His will is accomplished through the COVID-19 viral pandemic. He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.