“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.”—Revelation 6:9 (NKJV)
Heaven is an unusual setting for a story. There aren’t many stories in the Bible that take place in heaven, especially ones featuring former earth dwellers. We have many more stories where angelic beings break through to earth. But in this story, it’s the other way around.
When the Word of God works to transform a person’s life, the prayer Jesus taught His disciples begins to get answered: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV). This actually begins to happen. As it does, the Christian’s life story has a plot twist. His or her story—testimony—begins to take shape around the Kingdom of God.
But the scene above takes place in heaven. And the characters are people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. They’ve affected the earthly status quo. They’ve changed the old systems. These souls are actual people who have walked (or will walk) on the earth. Maybe you’ve met some of them.
Here are some of the people numbered among those souls: Abraham M. Akouch, Alapayo Deng Ghazel, Daniel Aguek Cheng, John B., and Michael Bior Machar, all men who gave their lives while pastoring soldiers defending their country in South Sudan’s civil war.
William E. Koehn, Dr. Martha C. Myers, and Kathleen A. Gariety are missionaries who served at Jibla Baptist Hospital in southern Yemen. A lone assassin gunned them down because they preached Christianity. It was a regular day on the job for them. One was a doctor and two were hospital administrators.
Pastor James “Tripp” Battle died on a regular day of serving Jesus when an angry man with a gun shot him. His life was transformed by the Word of God and the witness of his life was to see as many people in his city as possible transformed the way he was.
These are people I’ve sat in classes with, shared meals with, and even hiked on dirt roads with. Most I knew and one was a friend of friends. These were all normal people, just like you and me. Their lives weren’t lifted from the pages of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or the Left Behind series. What made their lives Revelation 6 worthy is that they made intentional life decisions around making God’s will happen on earth as it does in heaven.