Revelation 6:9-11 (NASB):

9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;

10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?”

11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also.

Are the souls in this passage already resurrected or still awaiting the resurrection? If they are still awaiting the resurrection, how come they are awake, able to speak, being spoken to and given white robes to dress?

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    Well, it's a vision given to John by the angel of Jesus from Jesus from God. Rev 1:1 ---Notice v2 who testified to the word of God AND to the testimony of Jesus Christ. Interesting that the logos and Jesus are separated.
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 4:30
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    It is a vision - it is not real!! It is a cartoon or caricature/parable of truth. It cannot and should not be taken any more literally than the description of Jesus as a bleeding lamb in Rev 5. Even here in Rev 6 we have the lamb!! opening the seal - it is not literal.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 4:36
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    @Dottard - how do you get to decide which parts of Revelation are cartoons and which parts aren't?
    – user38524
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 4:38
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    @Dottard - crossing the red sea also violates our current (and limited) understanding of physics. Should we conclude that the crossing of the red sea is symbolic too?
    – user38524
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 4:52
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    That incident was not part of a vision about the future and is clearly literal, no question. The entire book, by it own admission is symbolic - the moment you make something in Revelation literal you then need to ask where does the symbolic stop and the literal begin or is that something that only I should decide or perhaps you or someone else?
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 5:10

11 Answers 11


I’ll offer a less-popular take (but what fun would it be to repeat things that have already been said on related questions?). I suggest that the spirit is not dormant between death and the resurrection, but does indeed remain conscious.


The Bible frequently refers to the dead as “asleep”. This is clearly metaphorical—even without the advent of modern medicine people realized that there was a difference between being asleep and being dead. This is demonstrated by Luke 8: 52-53:

52 And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.

53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.

But “asleep” is a useful metaphor for death and the resurrection—sleep isn’t permanent—you will wake up.

To take it one step further, though, and argue that therefore the dead have no consciousness is I believe unwarranted. Not only do those who are sleeping have continued cognitive activity (i.e. dreams), but there are numerous instances in the Bible where people experience visions—and they are conscious of the experience.

Paul provides a useful example:

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. (2 Cor 12:2)

Paul is uncertain whether his body was left behind or not…but either way, Paul had no issue with the idea that someone could be conscious without a body.



The word commonly translated as “Spirit” in the New Testament is “pneuma” (and variations thereof) which literally means “breath” (see here).

This brings substantial light to the statement in Genesis 2:7:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

God supplied something—something which is rendered over and over again in the Bible as “Spirit”—and that gave man life. Many have concluded that humans have a spirit and a body—that the spirit dwells in the body while the person is alive, and departs the body at death.

This would make for a very straightforward interpretation of these passages:

…Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Acts 7:59)

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46)

They knew their body was dying but their concern was for their spirit - because they believed their spirit was going somewhere.

That “give up the ghost” is a euphemism (in English, not Greek) for death implies that this is a commonplace interpretation: something of a spiritual nature is leaving the body.

See also discussion of these ideas in Dave’s post here, and as Nihil Sine Deo has observed:

The body is a housing for the spirit. Jesus preexisted His birth in the human body, known as the incarnation.

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” ‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:58‬ ‭


The apostles believed a spirit could do things after death

The fact that the disciples in Luke 24 had to be told that Jesus was not a ghost/spirit presupposes the existence of the spirit—and that the spirit does not become dormant at death:

But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. (Luke 24:37)

Jesus then confirms that spirits are a real thing:

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (Luke 24:39)

And the word used in verse 39 for spirit is none other than “pneuma”.


The dead are conscious somewhere

Passages like the below have had people doing theological somersaults for centuries, but that’s a matter for SE-Christianity. The Bible does speak of conscious activity by the dead. It may not be clear where they are, but it is clear that they are portrayed as conscious agents:

Multiple passages speak of the message of Jesus being taught to the dead.

1 Peter 3: 18-20:

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

1 Peter 4:6:

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Some understand Isaiah 9:2 to be teaching the same principle.

Note that these passages are not only indicating that the dead are conscious in that they are being taught, but they also speak of conscious activity by Jesus between His death and resurrection. They are spirits, and they are not dormant.

These passages are also interesting because they speak of both the righteous and the wicked.


The Thief in paradise

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

This passage has also been rendered as “in the world of spirits”.


And in Revelation 6:9-11, the passage cited in the OP, the dead here are speaking, being spoken to, and are being given robes. This suggests that not only are they conscious, but their disembodied spirits have substance.


I’ll cite just one more passage—this one from Clement of Rome, a man who was taught by the apostles:

  1. There was Peter who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one not one but many labors, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed place of glory.

  2. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith,

  3. having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance. (1 Clement 5:4-6)

Here we have an apostolic father who is suggesting that although Peter & Paul have not yet been resurrected (see 1 Clement 24:1 & 26:1), they are already in a better holier place and have already received some form of glory. Clearly Clement believes there is something between death and the resurrection.



So I went ahead and challenged a popular view; I’d better wrap this up as some are itching to down-vote this post to Hades (pun totally intended), but my conclusion is this:

  1. Humans have (at minimum) a spirit and a body
  2. The spirit departs the body at death
  3. After death the body decays but the spirit is not dormant
  4. Spirit and body come together at the resurrection


I understand the context of the question--including the relevance of other questions this site was discussing when this was asked--to be an inquiry as to whether or not the dead are conscious. My answer focuses on this angle.

This passage (and others) could certainly be used to engage in a discussion of the relationship of the meanings of the words ψυχή (soul) and πνεῦμα (spirit). I do not understand this to be the intent of the OP's question, so I have not addressed it in my answer.

Sometimes soul & spirit are used interchangeably, sometimes they are used distinctly. A more extensive discussion of these words would be more appropriate for a separate question.

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    Interesting, but the soul and spirit are distinct.After death the spirit returns to the Lord..Ecclesiastes 12:7...Your body will become part of the dust of the earth again. But your spirit will return to God who gave it. Note: the soul needs the breath of the spirit to come alive again. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/13524/…
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 19:39
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    That's a fair comment, but in the context of the question asked, we are talking about soul and not spirit. It does not say that the spirits were each given a white robe. It says that the souls were each given a white robe. There is a difference. Thanks for your comment anyway and I hope you give more input on this site.
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 22:02
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    @AnthonyBurg that does appear to be Clement's meaning. In 1 Clement 24:1 & 1 Clement 26:1 he discusses the hope of the resurrection as something that is still in the future--even for some who have already served him in the past. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 22:04
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    @HoldToTheRod Good and exact speculation, with only one unclarity: you affirm that Lord Jesus Christ pre-existed His bodily state as spirit, but I agree if you say that He pre-existed as Logos, who had nothing belonging to created nature in Him. Human souls/spirits are created, whereas Logos is Creator and He is spirit in the sense that Father and Holy Ghost also are spirit, for God is spirit, i.e. completely devoid of creatureliness and materiality. But Logos hypostatically is not H.Ghost. Logos assumed not only human body, but He assumed together with human body also human intelligent soul. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 19:06
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - thanks for fixing my bad link! Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 20:07

No, the souls are not awake.

Revelation 6:11

And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer.

Note: They were told to rest for a little while longer.

If they are told to rest for a little while longer, this strongly implies that they are not awake. Compare Daniel 12:13,(Niv)

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

Also, compare Revelation 14:13,

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

Revelation 6:10

and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?”

Compare Genesis 4:10 (the murder of Abel) with Revelation 6:10

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.


Regarding the souls in heaven, it is their blood that does the speaking in the same way as the blood of Abel speaks in Genesis 4:10

Revelation 20:4-5 informs the reader that the souls are at rest and then they they are awakened from their rest.

4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

  • Good points. But if they have not been resurrected yet, why were they given white robes (V11)?
    – user38524
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 11:41
  • Not 100 % sure, but i would think that it is because they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:13-14 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 11:50
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    Remember that the white robes “stand for the righteous acts of the saints”. When they are given white robes, it is a reference to the suffering that they endured. Also see the Word of God rider on a white horse. A white robe, dipped in blood. The giving of white robes etc. should not be used to substantiate the state of the martyrs this way or that.. the whole vision of heaven (ch 4 & 5) is symbolic at this point. It’s too fluid, too back-and-forth, to use it to pin down theological truths from the details. …
    – user36337
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 0:47
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    One does not have to be asleep in order to rest. God rested from his creative activity but that does not suggest God is asleep.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 13:21
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    @Bagpipes - then please give us the biblical hermeneutics explanation to support your view that in this chapter of Revelation 'rest means sleep'.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 7:58

The book of the Revelation is apocalyptic literature, highly symbolic, and it does not speak of literal events literally happening. For instance, there was no physical woman in the visible heavens giving birth to a male child, a great red dragon in front, ready to devour her child the second it was born. There were no actual locusts with scorpion tails, horses heads having crowns, yet faces like humans. The trouble with nearly all interpretations of the book of the Revelation is that people pick and choose what bits they think are symbolic, and what bits they think are literal. If you do that with the book, you will get it 'saying' whatever you fancy.

Therefore, the passage you ask about is a symbolic description of what is spiritual and invisible to our human eyes, and obscure to our human thinking until God reveals it to us. God has chosen to reveal matters in this book in such a way as to give signs and symbols that point us to spiritual principles. It is a graphic description, in words that give us a sense of how God sees matters both on earth, and in his holy heaven. Without God revealing those matters to us, we would have no idea about how malign unseen spiritual forces are manipulating the nations in a gigantic, cosmic battle seeking to wrest God's sovereign rights as Creator from him. The book shows they were defeated before they even began, but Christians need to see clearly, with spiritual eyes, the build up to their demise, if we are not to be fooled by their present deceptive powers of invisible darkness.

The bit you ask about requires context. The Lamb took the seven-sealed book in chapter six, and broke each seal, one by one. It is the fifth seal being opened that reveals this heavenly vision to John's eyes. Even in John's day, many Christians had been martyred for faithfully bearing the name of Jesus. Some had been beheaded, but there were myriad ways the wicked executed those hated Christians, and this has been going on in every century since Christ returned to heaven, victorious. Those saints under heaven's altar stand for the on-going attacks on Christians from the time of Christ right till today. They are not numbered. In the vision they are a representative group. Here is a quote following a list of scriptures that show how Christians die to self (daily), how they are crucified with Christ (even while they live):

"The altar in the old testament was the place of sacrifice. The blood of the sacrifice was poured out at the side or foot of the altar, and would, of course, soak the ground beneath it. The altar itself was a figure or type of the sacrifice and sacrificial death of Christ. This, being vicarious, was unique, in which he was offered up once and for all on behalf of his people. But there is a sense in which the death of Christ is exemplary, and one followed by the faithful in their suffering unto death - for they loved not their lives unto the death - for the word of God, and the testimony which they held. In principle this is true of all saints even though not actually martyred...

Evidently, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, and the fifth seal shows that they died not as did the worldly by their calamities sent through the earth under the second, third and fourth seal, but, having been called into the kingdom under the first seal, from another cause altogether...

The souls of the saints are viewed in terms of what they suffered unjustly in all their pathway of tribulation, crying out for vindication from under the altar. The world treats them as it treated Christ... they are bidden to be patient, consoled with white robes; for others are to follow in the same pathway. Those under the altar are told to wait until the persecutors have done their office to the last... Meanwhile they must possess their souls in patience. Those under the altar must endure till the ride is done. The horsemen ride on, the last elect shall be called, whilst, meantime, God fully admits of their just cause, but not till the end will he proceed to avenge it." (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp 163-165, John Metcalfe)

That is why there follows the opening of the sixth seal, when God's wrath is poured out from heaven, onto an ungodly world that hated the Man on the white horse, and his saints. If you don't grasp the symbolism of the first four seals you won't get the meaning of either the fifth seal (under heaven's altar) or the sixth seal, (the great day of God's wrath experienced by those who would not submit to the authority of God on his heavenly throne, or to the Lamb at the center of that throne). All the souls who have ever died are clothed in resurrection bodies at the Last Day, to be judged, but the souls of those under heaven's altar know consolation, rest and the comfort of white robes from the day they died to the Last Day.

I answer your question this way because visionary, apocalyptic literature goes beyond literal bodies, audible speech as we understand it, physical garments and such-like - to elevate our understanding into the spiritual realms, to enable us to grasp spiritual principles. This is heaven's view of matters that pertain not only to what's happening on earth with unseen demonic agitation deceiving the world, but to how Christ judges his Church ("Judgment begins with the household of God" 1 Peter 4:17, Rev. chapters 2 & 3) and then the world (Rev. chapters 6 to the end of 20).

Concluding, basic answer based on the foregoing: All the saints symbolically depicted as being under heaven's altar are aware, intelligent, questioning, being answered, then given symbolic robes until the future Day of Resurrection takes place. Then they will get their resurrection bodies.


Without getting into the soul-sleep vs eternal soul debate, there are two things about the incident in the fifth seal we should observe:

  1. The scenes described in the seals are highly symbolic as confirmed by such symbols as: Jesus depicted as a bleeding lamb, four symbolic horsemen, a pair of scales, exorbitant grain prices, stars falling from the sky, sky rolled up like a scroll, etc. These are all highly symbolic. It is inconsistent to try to insert something literal amidst this symbolism.
  2. The symbolism in the fifth seal appears to allude to two verses with quintessential Hebraisms:

Gen 4:10 - “What have you done?” replied the LORD. “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground."

Heb 11:4 - By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous when God gave approval to his gifts. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

Thus, the simplest, most consistent way to understand the fifth seal is the need for justice and judgement on the perpetrators of the murders of the martyred saints. Indeed, the text in Rev 6:10 says, "how long do you not judge ... "

  • Hmmm, and no one believes that the blood of Abel was literally crying to God from the ground, and yet that is what God said. Either God was lying, or God was using symbolism. Genesis 4:10 indisputably proves that God is capable of speaking symbolically. +1, Great answer, especially since you didn't have to get into immortal souls or anything of such.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 22:30
  • I found your earlier comments, and this post, refreshingly straightforward - the revelation of Jesus Christ as given to John is symbolic and spiritual. John sees the souls of the martyred saints, he hears them speak and he sees them clothed in white garments. In the vision they are conscious, able to communicate and have form. They are told to wait and to rest till the time is right for God to bring judgment on all who persecute His people - clearly that is still some time future. The future resurrection is when the saints are clothed in a glorified body fit to spend eternity with God.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 13:07

Souls Under the Altar ‒ Revelation 6

In the Book of Revelation, an obviously symbolic work, the apostle John sees the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God. I will repeat the passages related by the question:

Revelation 6:9-11: “[I] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.”

The individuals in these passages appear to John as waiting under the altar in heaven, and they’re told to be patient, to “wait a little longer” until the full complement of martyrs is complete. The verses suggest a sense of the passage of finite time, not that of eternity (timelessness). At first glance, it would appear that martyred Christians await rewards yet to be bestowed ‒- not the least of which is their glorified bodies.

But, let’s dig deeper here. What does it mean to suggest "souls under the altar?" Since heaven is above, this seems to indicate that these souls exist on earth: under the Throne of God. Further, do we not routinely ask the same questions as those quoted above as we witness the injustices, cruelty, and oppression exhibited all around us? As a faithful child of God, how many times have we seen some truly despicable acts and (metaphorically) held our head in our hands asking ourselves, “How long, Lord, will You delay judging and avenging innocent blood? How long before you return to punish those who inflict vicious persecution all across the globe?”

All children of God are “given white robes” – that is, they are cleansed from their old, sinful selves at baptism. The parable of the Wedding Feast helps us visualize what this means:

Matthew 22:11-13: “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes [symbolized by the "white robes"], and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place [Hell] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"

We must not be found without our "wedding clothes," "white robes" we receive through faith. Naturally, after baptism, we must "walk in the Light" (1 Jn. 1) as we encounter many trials in Christ awaiting the final day in which all the saints: past, present, and future, have been gathered together for holiness and glory. Analogous circumstances existed during Noah’s day as he preached over several generations (100 years) to those who would reject his message. Only 8 people (Noah and his extended family) survived the ensuing Flood that washed away the godlessness and sin from the surface of the earth.

It should also be remembered that John witnessed the events portrayed in Revelation 6 as a man living on earth. Consistent with the general symbolism throughout the Book of Revelation, what John saw in heaven was communicated to him in the figurative language of his earth-bound life. Indeed, John was one of the persecuted souls -- or souls under the altar! The truth conveyed by the vision of these souls demonstrates heaven’s identification with, and concern for all persecuted brethren throughout history –- including us –- as we mourn for relief from the injustices of the world. Here Paul in Romans 7:

Romans 7:24: Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death [immoral world of spiritual wickedness]?

Would Those in Heaven Seek Vengeance?

Comparable symbolism is found early in the Book of Genesis. After having murdered his younger brother Abel, God tells Cain that:

Genesis 4:10: “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”

These appear to both be examples of injustices that “cry out” for vengeance. But, such reprisals are God’s alone:

Romans 12:19: “For it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

We might further wish to contemplate this question: just who, once immersed in the eternal perfection, holiness, and majesty of heaven, would actually be seeking retribution for injustices they were forced to endure while on earth? Would not such carnal recollections, if indeed we entertain any, be the farthest thing from our glorified minds?


That depends on whether or not the dead are inherently self-aware/conscious. If they are, then yes, the souls under the altar are awake and crying out; if not, then no, the souls aren't awake and crying out.

NOTE: Depending on the theological doctrines you hold, you will necessarily believe one or the other and will be forced to adhere to said belief at all possible costs. However, the truth is unperturbed by what theology one holds fast to, and, unfortunately, all too often peoples' theologies are left unperturbed by the truth! But, at the end of the day, it's one or the other, it cannot be both. So, what is the truth?

First, we must concur on two fundamental precepts.

(1.) That all scripture is inspired by God, in accordance with 2 Timothy 3:16-17;

"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

(2.) That scripture cannot be broken, in accordance with John 10:35;

"If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and scripture cannot be broken—"

And what do these precepts entail precisely?

  • That God has a purpose for each and every scripture; that He retained the scripture as part of His inspired word for a valid reason. The scriptures must also harmonize/be in accord, and not contradict or oppose each other. God, having infinite knowledge and wisdom, does not work in self-contradictory ways; therefore scripture, being God-breathed, cannot contradict itself. It must be internally consistent.

  • That clear and unequivocal statements found in scripture are necessarily taken as such. They cannot be twisted into something they clearly aren't or invalidated altogether. We cannot neglect or disregard any scripture(never mind how much it may damage our beloved theologies). If we do any such deeds, scripture has been broken, and Jesus's words at John 10:35 have been discounted.

If one does not admit these precepts, then this answer will be of no help to them. If they do, then it will.

Now, let's examine a number of scriptures.

  • Genesis 3:19 "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

  • Ecclesiastes 9:5 "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten."

  • Ecclesiastes 9:10 "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going."

  • Ecclesiastes 12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

  • Psalm 6:5 "For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol, who will praise You?"

  • Psalm 88:10-12 "Will You perform wonders for the dead? Or will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah 11 Will Your graciousness be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon? 12 Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?"

  • Psalm 115:17 "It is not the dead who praise the LORD, nor any of those descending into the silence of death."

  • Psalm 146:4 "His spirit departs, and he returns to the earth. On that very day, his thoughts perish."

  • Isaiah 38:18-19 "For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. 19 It is the living who give thanks to You, as I do today; A father tells his sons about Your faithfulness."

Do these scriptures make it seem as though the dead are capable of speaking, thinking, or being aware? Death is said to be silent and as the darkness. It's called the land of forgetfulness. The dead cannot thank, cannot praise, cannot hope; all feats that require mental faculties to be accomplished. In Sheol, there is absolutely no declaration of God, or of His faithfulness/graciousness, or of anything He performs. When we die, our spirits depart to God who gave it, and we return to the dust from which we were taken; consequently, our thoughts perish altogether. And most of all, the dead know naught; they have no knowledge, wisdom, thinking, or work in the place where they are.

Clearly, the scriptures indicate contrary to the dead being awake/capable of speech. Lest we disregard what Jesus said about scripture(i.e. how it cannot be broken) by twisting(or even invalidating) the definitive statements found in the given scriptures, we are required to accept what they unambiguously state. Of course, as I said in the onset, all too often people ignore the truth and stick to their doctrines, as said doctrines tend to be more pleasant, as opposed to the truth, which can aggravate people greatly. As James A. Garfield once said, "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."

But you might be thinking... Isn't it cruel for God to force the dead to be unconscious? Why would God deprive the dead of love and life? It would be rustic and graceless, lacking all taste, and entirely inelegant for God to do such a thing as forcing the dead to be entirely unconscious and unaware, therefore He could never do such a thing.

Well, saying this would involve employing a logical fallacy called appeal to emotion. This logical fallacy is in use when one tries to evoke an emotional response to support their claim, as opposed to a valid argument using facts and sound reasoning. The notion that the dead are unconscious and without life or love may be all sorts of unpleasant, but the truth minds not what is considered distasteful or without grace; to say otherwise would be engaging in sophistry.

Also, God does not deprive the dead of life or consciousness; rather, the dead are by virtue of being dead, without life and consciousness. Death is diametrically opposed to life; they are polar opposites(you cannot be dead and alive simultaneously). Accordingly, if life entails consciousness, then death entails unconsciousness, and that is not God being cruel; that is death being what it is. God does not force the dead to be unconscious any more than He forces those living to undergo hardships, pain, and suffering, namely, He doesn't at all. He allows the dead to be unconscious, just as He allows the living to undergo hardships, pain, and suffering.

Notwithstanding that I haven't even gotten into how death is analogized to the state of sleep by Jesus, Luke, and Paul, and how not only is that fully consistent with the aforementioned, but also largely substantiates it. However, that would take up much more space than is necessary, and I think I've proven(using the scriptures) the proposition that the dead are entirely unconscious, that is, it's proven only if one axiomatically accepts the precepts proffered at the onset.

Ok, so what does this mean for Revelation 6:9-11? Well, it means that the souls under the altar cannot literally be awake or speaking/crying. Perhaps it is a metaphor then? But if so, do the events recorded(at Revelation 6:9-11) bear any semblance to other circumstances(that could likewise be metaphorical, as opposed to literal, in nature) recorded in the Bible? Of course, whether or not it does, does not abolish the possibility that the events recorded are metaphors, albeit it would help our case substantially if it did. Fortunately for us, it just so happens that it does...

Genesis 4:8-11 "Cain talked to his brother Abel; and it happened that when they were in the field Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?" 10 Then He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand."

Revelation 6:9-11 "When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?" 11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also."

There are so many similarities between the two events that it's rather uncanny.

  • The blood of Abel and the souls are presented in similar spatial settings. The blood of Abel is, at first, said to be on the ground, but it goes on to say that the ground opened its mouth to receive the blood of Abel, implying that the blood was transferred to under the ground; the souls of those who had been killed for their righteous testimony and the word of God are said to be under the altar.

  • Both Abel and the Christians to whom the souls under the altar belong had been killed for their righteous testimony(cf. Luke 11:50-51, Hebrews 11:4).

  • Both the souls underneath the altar and the blood of Abel on the ground cried out with a voice to God.

  • In both instances, God responds to the cries. God responded to the crying blood of Abel by avenging his blood and punishing(cursing) Cain for what he had done; God responded to the crying souls under the altar by assuring them that He will ultimately avenge their blood and that they just have to wait and rest a little longer until their number is complete.

Now, was Abel's blood literally crying out to God? Does Abel's blood possess a larynx and a mouth from which to call out to God? Obviously, the answer to both questions is no. And yet, that(the blood was crying out) is precisely what God said was happening. The only practical explanation is that God was using a metaphor; Abel's blood was symbolically crying out to God. The recorded event is not designed to be taken literally. Accordingly, one can say the same about the events at Revelation 6:9-11, i.e. that they are metaphorical in nature. In fact, regarding all the similarities between the two events, it's considerably more likely that the recorded events are in fact metaphorical, as opposed to being literal; that the souls under the altar were symbolically crying out to God, as opposed to literally crying out to God. Thus, this is thoroughly consistent with what we know about the dead being unconscious and without thought or knowledge.

Hope this helps, and have a good day!

  • 3
    I have read carefully your response. Again and again you are committing the same error of arrogating your t h e o l o g i c a l ideas as Supra-theological, calling them “truth”, and downgrading theological ideas of others as “doctrines”, depriving them right to the same claim of truth that you have and projecting them as inferior to your doctr..., oh, sorry, truths. But again and again: the others also have their arguments and their claim of truth and your attempt to make yourself a sole mouthpiece of objective interpretation results just in one of the theologies in theological market. Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 4:33
  • 1
    Thanks Rajesh. Your answer is very helpful to me. You have used scripture to interpret scripture. Your answer clearly shows that the souls are not awake. Have a great year !
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 9:18
  • 1
    @Bagpipes Thank you very much! I appreciate it a lot. :) Have a great day.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:02
  • 1
    Great answer, Rajesh, and very well argued. I never saw the parallels between the Gen passage and the throne room scene. Superb!
    – user36337
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:54
  • 1
    Thank you very much. :D
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:55

Yes, 100% - they are the persons (souls, spirits) of the passed away saints, who await for the final resurrection in the End of History, and in this interim state between their physical death and the final resurrection, are alive, conscious and most intensively awake ardently praying to God.

It is self-evident, unless one wishes to twist the quoted text at will and whim, based on their doctrinal-ideological agenda, making a totally inadmissible eisegesis: because it is clearly written in Rev.6:11 that those persons are given to each white robes and they are asked to 'rest for a while', ἀναπαύσονται, until the others would also die just like them. That is to say, when they rise their voices, they are already out of their bodies, and are given the white robes, the sign of their dignity, not of their annihilation, and asked to be at rest until fulfillment of time when all will suffer the same as they have suffered, i.e. death, that again means that they rise voice after that fact, i.e. the fact of death. Then why have we to quibble any longer whether they are alive/conscious or have disappeared with death? Nobody who disappears is given white robe, is soothed by a command to be reposed etc.

Below I shall give a history of the issue with some lucid arguments for repelling of heretical and soul-damaging and gloom-creating unbiblical ideas.


Wrongness of the heresy of "thnetophsychism" (an old heresy, officially condemned in Byzantium in 6th century, claiming that souls die together with bodies)

Logic of the passage of the Apocalypse goes that the co-servants of the mentioned souls of the saints are still living historical lives and are to die, just like them. Now, say, St. Polycarp martyred in the beginning of 2nd century, who could be one of such saints, is rising his voice to God together with other martyrs in the list of those in that passage; where was the body of St. Polycarp at that moment? Of course its dismembered parts were taken by various churches as holy relics and venerated. Does not St. Polycarp's soul await for reunification with his resurrected body? Of course he does, and this will be the final eschatological state that will last forever. But we see that personality of saints is fully preserved even in disembodied state for they can pray and reciprocate with God and thus influence events.

That is why in most ancient traditions of Christianity, Catholicism and Orthodoxy (as well as even in heterodox traditions of Monophysitism and Nestorianism) there is a supplication to dead saints that they may offer help through their prayers and intercessions, for they, as holy ones, have greater boldness before the throne of the Lord than we - sinners. If their souls and personalities are dead like their bodies are (as Jehowah witnesists unbiblically believe) then this tradition is absurd. But it is not, and as also the discussed passage shows, fully grounded on the Holy Scripture.

As to many other passages take, for example, Philippians 1:23-24: “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Now, Paul sees death as an opportunity for a more intense communication with Christ than while living historical life. If he, God forbid, expects annihilation or unconscious sleeping even with a prospect of final resurrection, then it is impossible that he may covet that state more than his living state.

Also logically, how absurd is to suppose that Lord permits annihilating of a deceased in actuality and keeping him only in memory to resurrect on the last day! If man was an unrepented sinner, that means that he had a damage in his nature, and would God then resurrect, which is the same as to recreate, him damaged? With a sin? Impossible, for God cannot create sin, i.e. moral depravity.


Wrongness of the "sleeping theory", (i.e. the doctrine of souls of the deceased being put to a sleep by God in the interim state from the death to the End of History/Second Coming)

As to the second, that is to say, "sleeping version", here also is a logical inconsistency, for sleeping means that somebody is alive, for dead cannot sleep, albeit unconscious (I mean, in unconscious sleep). If the deceased saints sleep unconsciously, they are alive then, and God is able to wake them up also in their disembodied state; and why should not God do it? Why should God deprive them of bliss of conscious communication with Him throughout all the period of history of mankind from their repose to the Second Coming and the end of history? Absurd to hold such an idea on God! For how on earth can He deprive, say, the deceased person of the Apostle Paul to care through prayers to God for those people whom he loved during his earthly sojourn? It sounds like a dreadful calumny on God who promised that "everyone who believes in Me will never die" (John 11:25-26), and how wrong is it to suppose that this undying believer will be put to an unconscious state, i.e. not really what is implied in "life" by the Lord, and not participate through prayers and intercession for humans still fighting calamities in historical life? For "life" is nothing without love and love definitely ceases when one is unconscious; will God be so cruel as to deprive the dead saints of love and life for the entire period of human history after their passing away? - Impossible.

And, moreover, what is that what survives a bodily death in humans? Of course, the intelligent soul and the very core-personality of this human, the un-decaying inwardness that is not reducible to body (2 Cor. 4:16) or the "inner man" (Romans 7:22-23). Now, this intelligent essence surviving biological death is or is not of the same essence as that of angels? Yes, it is, for angels are also created bodiless intelligent essences. Now, do or can angels sleep? No, they do not and cannot sleep. The same with the souls of the deceased saints! If even in this life a good and devote ascetic monk reduces hours of his sleep, i.e. the bodily necessity, sometimes to even to two hours per 24hrs (like e.g. st Shio of the Cave who did this feat for 15 years) in order to pray without interruption, then when bodily necessity is out of picture at the physical death of this person, then what will hinder him praying incessantly like angels do? Besides being ontologically wrong and heretical, also how rustic and graceless, lacking all taste and entirely inellegant is to think about God putting to a sleep an ardent soul of a deceased saint whose only desire was to engage in as intense communication and prayer with God as possible while in this life!

  • You believe the souls are alive, and they are not at rest?
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 18:45
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    @Bagpipes They are alive and at rest simultaneously. Angels, incorporeal intellects, are at rest and they constantly supplicate to God on our behalf. So are the glorified saintly souls. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 18:58
  • @Bagpipes Thanks for reading and estimating! Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 19:07
  • "then this tradition is absurd." I think it's absurd either way. And it's not fully grounded in scripture. It's not grounded in scripture whatsoever. Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verses 5 and 10 make it clear that the dead know nothing at all and have no thoughts or knowledge or wisdom, and those scriptures corroborate with others one in both the OT and NT. I get that it's nice to dismiss them; after all, they mess with our theology! And our theology is correct, obviously... Or perhaps you should take a moment and rethink your theology. What do you say?
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 19:17
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 19:20

For the Bible verse in question to make sense, there has to be a part missing (not told) between the dead souls' anguish and the giving of the white robe. Like you pointed out, a white robe, or any kind of clothing for that matter, needs a body to hang on. Since these 144000 dead martyrs (martyrs become martyrs by being killed for their faith) are to come alive again and rule the earth during the millennium, at some point they will have to be given a new body. The giving of a new body is the missing part here. Because there has to be a body to hang the robe on. Alternatively, "a white robe" could simply stand for a new body.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Rev 20:4, NIV)


Are they awake? Yes. Are they still waiting under the altar? No.

  1. The "end" is linked to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Daniel asked "how long shall it be till the end of these wonders?" (Dan. 12:6). He was told till the time, times, and half a time, or 3-1/2 years and when the power of the holy people (the Jews) would be scattered. Daniel could not conceive of the temple being destroyed and the Jews being scattered everywhere, and so he asked again (vs. 8).

The answer again concerned the destruction of the temple in vs. 11 & 12 - the desolation would be 1290 days (3-1/2 years, or 42 mos) after the daily sacrifice had ceased - meaning the daily sacrifice set up at the temple in Jerusalem.

"At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account;..." Source: Josephus, Book of Wars II.17.2 (1)

The daily sacrifice to Caesar in Jerusalem was halted. The war with Rome began. From the burning of the temple on the 10th of Av (2) to the task begun on the 8th of Elul of tearing down of the walls of the city and the temple (3), and the burning of the rest of the city, the Romans continued to seek out those Jewish rebels still hiding in the houses and caves under the city. The killing continued and is why God said in Dan. 12:12.

"Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." (KJV)

By the 1st of Tishri, 50 days after the burning of the temple, the desolation of Jerusalem was completed and the power of the holy people had been scattered.

  1. The resurrection was linked to the "end" at the destruction of the temple.

"But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." (Dan. 12:13, KJV)

The "end" being the destruction of the temple and the desolation of Jerusalem, therefore the resurrection in which Daniel would stand would be after the temple was destroyed.

After foretelling the destruction of the temple in Matt. 24, the next chapter opens with "Then.." meaning after the destruction of temple and after the desolation of Jerusalem. Matt. 25 begins with the parable of the wedding alluding to the marriage of the Lamb as the bridegroom and linking it with the coming of His kingdom. The pattern of the feasts demands the understanding that the marriage feast began on the 1st of Tishri, Feast of Trumpets which occurred 50 days after the temple began burning on the 10th of Av AD 70.

And, at the marriage feast the resurrection from Hades occurred and Christ began judging.

"31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matt. 25: 31-33, KJV)

Coming in His glory was the judgment pronounced upon Jerusalem, as a coming of the Lord was a time of judgment against the wicked (Isa. 2:12; 3:18; 13:6; Jer. 4:13; Joel 2:1-2; Mal. 4:5; Zeph. 1:14-15; etc.), which included those who pierced Him (Rev. 1:7), and at the same time He would perfect the establishment of His kingdom (Rev. 21:1-3). Christ linked the coming of the kingdom in the parables of Matt. 25 in his discussion with His disciples of the destruction of the temple following Matt. 24. Same discussion, same events.

And, in that same discussion is the resurrection in which Daniel would stand in his lot at the end of the days (Dan. 12:9, 13). The picture we are given of the grave (Hades / Sheol) in Luke 16:20-31 is the separation out of Hades of Matt. 25:31-33. Daniel, and Moses, and Abraham, and all those back to Abel were those of the righteous in the section of Hades called Paradise (Abraham's Bosom, Luke 16:22) which were taken home with Christ into heaven during the time of the Feast of Trumpets, and the spiritual wedding feast during the 10 days up to Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishri in AD 70. Thereafter, the marriage was completed, the kingdom was in place according to the pattern of the feast days for the tabernacle feast of booths on the 15th of Tishri (Rev. 21:3).

This is shown clearly in the parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:1-14 where the king enters and sees the one who is not clothed in the proper wedding garments. That parable is set in the context of the destruction of the city - Jerusalem. Judgment occurred at the wedding feast. Matt. 22 wedding feast, Rev. 21 wedding feast.

Christ took those souls under the altar of Rev. 6:9-11 home with all the rest risen from the grave called Hades after the destruction of Jerusalem was finished.

Daniel was told to seal the prophesy for time was not yet (Dan. 12:4, 9). John was told not to seal the prophesy for the time was at hand (Rev. 1:1-5; 22:10). The book was given to Christ, the Lamb slain in Rev. 5:6-7, the seals were broken in Rev. 6 for the unfolding of the destruction led by Christ on the white horse (Rev. 6:2). The woes Christ had pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23:13-29, as he pronounced the desolation of Jerusalem were opened and poured out in Rev. 7, 8, and 9, and again in Rev. 16:2.

Recalling Matt. 23:35, "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth,.." is Rev. 16:6.

"For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." (KJV)

Rev. 20:12-14 is the separation out of Hades depicted in Matt. 25:31-33 after the destruction of Jerusalem at the wedding feast depicted in Matt. 22:10-13. Then Hades was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14) in AD 70 after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Hades has not existed since AD 70. Ever since Christ won that battle, and the old earthly sacrificial temple was destroyed, and the old law / covenant was completely annulled (Heb. 7:18) every soul that is faithful unto death is changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51-52) and gathered home into heaven (1 Thess. 4:17).

After the destruction, "we which remain alive" have to live out our earthly lives until our bodily death which no one escapes (Heb. 9:27) - notwithstanding Enoch and Elija having been translated into the section of the grave called Paradise -

"and as it is laid up to men once to die, and after this -- judgment," (YLT)

"And I heard a voice out of the heaven saying to me, Write: **Happy are the dead who in the Lord are dying from this time**!' Yes, (saith the Spirit,) That they may rest from their labours -- and their works do follow them!'" (Rev. 14:13, YLT)

After the destruction, those dying in the Lord from this time... after the separation out of Hades, after Hades was thrown into the lake of fire.. the process was changed from a gathering into the grave (Hades) to wait for the coming of Christ and His kingdom to a process of being gathered directly into heaven.

So, the souls under the altar of Rev. 6 are no longer in the grave, but were taken home to heaven in AD 70 with all the rest of that first resurrection and are now in heaven. Resurrection is now an on-going hourly and daily process as those who die in the Lord pass from this earthly realm to our home in heaven.


  1. Josephus Book of Wars, Chap. 2.17.2 - here

  2. Josephus Wars, Bk 6 Chap. 4.5 - here

  3. Josephus Wars, Bk 6 Chap. 8.5 - here



In Revelation 5, “Him who sat on the throne,” namely, "God" (Rev 7:10) gave Jesus a book that is “sealed up with seven seals” (Rev 5:1, 7). In Revelation 6, Jesus begins to break the seals one by one. When He broke the fifth seal, John saw:

“Underneath the altar the SOULS of those who had been slain because of the word of God” (Rev 6:9)

These "souls" cry out to God to avenge their "blood on those who dwell on the earth" (Rev 6:10) but they are given white robes and told to "rest for a little while longer" (Rev 6:11).

The question is whether these are disembodied but conscious souls literally crying out to God. To answer this question, one could discuss the state of the dead from the entire Bible. But the purpose of this article is to analyze what the Book of Revelation itself says about these “souls.”

The interpretation of the souls under the altar as disembodied but conscious persons depends on a literal reading of the text. To refute this, this article argues as follows:

A Symbolic Book

Firstly, it shows that the entire book of Revelation is a book of symbols:

  1. The book begins by saying that the visions in the book were given in form of signs (Gr. sémainó, meaning "to give a sign”) (Rev 1:1).

  2. There are many things in the book that simply cannot be literal. For example; a harlot woman riding a seven-headed dragon (Rev 17:3).

  3. But even when things seem to be literal, further investigation reveals that they are not. For example, the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 seems literal but it is really a symbolic description of God’s eternal people.

There are some things in the book that one obviously must take literally, such as the names “God” and “Jesus Christ” but, given the pervasive symbolism in Revelation, the safe route is to assume that EVERYTHING is symbolic except when something is shown to be literal. This means that, until the opposite has been proven, we must assume that the souls under the altar are not literal souls but symbols of realities in the cosmic struggle between the forces of life and death.

The fifth seal is symbolic.

For the purpose stated above, the remainder of this article discusses the fifth seal to determine whether the souls are literal or symbolic. This section analyzes the fifth seal phrase by phrase and shows that everything else in those three verses (Rev 6:9-11) is symbolic, namely:

The Lamb broke the fifth seal.

The Lamb who broke the fifth seal (Rev 6:9) was not a literal lamb but symbolizes Jesus Christ (Rev 5:6).

Neither are the book and its seven seals literal. The book symbolizes a crisis in heaven (Rev 5:3). Through His death, Jesus earned the right to solve that crisis (Rev 5:9). He does that by breaking the seals. For a discussion, see - The sealed book in Revelation 5.

John saw.

John wrote that he “saw” the “souls” under the altar. But John did not see anything; at least not with his physical eyes. Neither did the Spirit give John a visual image of these souls. This article argues that, in vision, through the Spirit, John simply knew about these souls and that they "had been slain because of the word of God."

Under the Altar

John saw the souls “underneath the altar” (Rev 6:9) but John did not see a literal altar. In the Old Testament, the “life” (literally the "soul" - nephesh) of the flesh is said to be in the blood (Lev 17:11). In the sacrificial rituals, the priest poured out the blood of the animal sacrifices at the base of the altar (e.g., Exo 29:12) where it would soak into the ground “underneath the altar.” The fifth seal uses this ritual as a symbol to say that God’s people are symbolically sacrificed on a symbolic altar; just like their Master was. Since the altar is not literal, the souls under the altar are also not literal.


The “souls” are said to be “those who had been SLAIN because of the word of God” (Rev 6:9). But "slain" is also a symbol. They symbolize ALL of God’s people; also those who have not literally been “slain.” In Revelation’s symbolism, all of God’s people are "slain."

Cry for Revenge

The souls cry out to God for revenge (Rev 6:10) but God's people would not seek revenge. Rather, like Jesus and Stephan, they would ask the Father to forgive their murderers (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60)!

This call for revenge must be understood as similar to Abel’s blood that cried out from the ground to God (Gen 4:10-11). It is the injustice they had suffered that cries out to God; not living beings. The cry symbolizes God’s awareness of the suffering of His people and His promise to set things right.

White Robes

Contrary to the idea that these are disembodied spirits, these souls are given white robes (Rev 6:11), implying that they have bodies. They could also cry out, implying that they have mouths.

But all of these are symbols. The white robes symbolize “the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:7-8) and serve as God’s guarantee that they will be resurrected to eternal life. As Jesus said, “be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10; cf. Rev 3:5).

Number Completed

Another article shows that “the number of their fellow servants … would be completed” (Rev 6:11) is also not literal but really is the same as the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev 7:3), meaning that the end-time remnant will be completed QUALITATIVELY in character; not numerically to a specific number.


So, everything else in the fifth seal is symbolic. Therefore, the souls “underneath the altar” cannot and should not be taken any more literally than the description of Jesus as a bleeding lamb (Rev 5:6).

Direct Evidence

Thirdly and lastly, this article provides specific evidence that a soul in this verse is not an immaterial but conscious portion of the human being that survives death:

(a) It is not easy to pin down the meaning of the word psuché. The NASB translates it 43 times as life (or lives) and 47 times as soul (or souls).

(b) Of the seven times that the Greek word psuché, which is translated in 6:9 as “souls,” is found in the book of Revelation, it twice refers to the souls of animals (Rev 8:9; 16:3). Firstly, we do not normally think that animals have an immaterial portion that survives death. Secondly, in both these verses, the souls of these animals die.

(c) The souls under the altar (6:9) are also mentioned in Revelation 12:11, which says that the psuché (life; literally, souls) of God’s people cease to exist when they die.

(d) They are again mentioned in Revelation 20:4 which states explicitly that they are not alive between death and resurrection.

(e) The fifth seal describes the souls under the altar as resting (Rev 6:11) and the Bible uses “rest” for death to describe it as a state of inactivity. For example, an angel said to Daniel: “You will enter into REST and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age” (Dan 12:13; cf. Rev 14:13; Isa 57:1-2). In other words, Daniel will NOT receive his “allotted portion” when he dies but he will “rest” until he does. “Rest,” therefore, is similar to the word “sleep.” Both describe death as a state of inactivity.

(f) In the fifth seal, the souls receive their guarantee for eternal life (their white robes) only “a little while” before Christ returns (Rev 6:11). Therefore, they cannot go to heaven when they die.

In 6:9 and 20:4, the “souls” of God’s people are said to survive the natural (first) death in some sense. We may understand this as that their deeds have been recorded in the books of heaven (Rev 14:13; 20:12) and God will resurrect them

The State of Death

With regard to the state of the dead, we live in a finite universe but God exists beyond time. Therefore I propose as follows:

At death, each of us is ‘wormholed’ through to the dawn of eternity. The spirit continues to live and is then reunited with a new body at the resurrection, but this occurs instantly at death.

For those living in time, a thousand years may pass. But for the person who dies, it’s a mere moment; “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor 15:52).

Consequently, all people who have passed on arrive simultaneously AT THE SAME ‘MOMENT’ in eternity.

To me, this reconciles the two views of the state of the dead. Then Paul's statements, that “to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” and that he desires “to depart and be with Christ” (Phil 1:21, 23) are fully compatible with the concept that death is a state of inactivity.

For the full article, of which this is a summary, see here.


Are the souls of Revelation 6:9-11 awake and, yet, still awaiting the resurrection?

The scriptures tell us that the "soul" of the flesh is in the blood and that God placed it on the altar for the atonement of your souls. [ Lev. 17:11a "For the life [soul- literally] of the flesh is in the blood," ]. This represents the blood of the faithful followers of Christ who were slain for their fervent witnessing of the Good News of the Kingdom.

Leviticus 17:11 NET

11 For the life of every living thing[a] is in the blood.[b] So I myself have assigned it to you[c] on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.[d]

Leviticus 17:11 YTL

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar, to make atonement for your souls; for it [is] the blood which maketh atonement for the soul.

A symbolic altar in heaven [Rev. 6:9]that resembles God's tabernacle in Israel. [Exodus 40:9] The priest slaughtered the animal and sprinkled some of the blood at the sides of the altar and poured the rest at its base. [Lev. 3:2, 4: 7 ]


Revelation 6:9-10 (NASB):

9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?”

The blood of faithful Abel is still crying from the ground for justice : [Gen. 4:10 NASB ]Reads: "Then He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground." Similarly, the blood of the martyrs that sacrificed their lives for Christ is also crying for judging.

Revelation 6:11 NASB

11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also.

Since they were given white robes,and told to wait a little while longer until their number was completed , this indicates that they were resurrected to immortal and imperishable life in heaven during Christ's presence. By conquering the world and being faithful to the end -death, are also given white garments.

Inheritance in Heaven

1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

Given White Garments:

Revelation 3:5 NASB " The one who overcomes will be clothed the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."

They were told to wait a little longer until their number was completed. This refers to the faithful servants of God that will be redeemed from the earth and will serve as Kings and Priest with Christ in his heavenly kingdom. [Rev. 5:10]

Revelation 14:3 NET

And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one was able to learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

Wait a little while longer. Why?

During Christ's presence those invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb and who have died, are resurrected first.

Revelation 19:9 NASB " Then he *said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

They are resurrected first, Paul in 1Thessalonians 4 :15-16 explains:

[NASB] 15 For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [a]and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [b]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

[YLT] 15 For this to you we say in the word of the Lord, that we who are living -- who do remain over to the presence of the Lord -- may not precede those asleep,

The remaining of the 144,000 to be redeemed from the earth who are invited to the wedding feast, and are still alive during His presence, provided they finish their earthly course faithfully to death, are resurrected immediately on death. They do not have to wait like the apostles that have died centuries ago, Paul explains:

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

51 Behold, I am telling you a [a]mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised [b]imperishable, and we will be changed.


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