“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:”
King James Version (KJV)
6:9 And when he opened the fifth seal - As the four former seals, so the three latter, have a close connexion with each other. These all refer to the invisible world; the fifth, to the happy dead, particularly the martyrs; the sixth, to the unhappy; the seventh, to the angels, especially those to whom the trumpets are given. And I saw - Not only the church warring under Christ, and the world warring under Satan; but also the invisible hosts, both of heaven and hell, are described in this book. And it not only describes the actions of both these armies upon earth; but their respective removals from earth, into a more happy or more miserable state, succeeding each other at several times, distinguished by various degrees, celebrated by various thanksgivings; and also the gradual increase of expectation and triumph in heaven, and of terror and misery in hell. Under the altar - That is, at the foot of it. Two altars are mentioned in the Revelation, the golden altar of incense, #Rev 9:13|; and the altar of burnt - offerings, mentioned here, and #Rev 8:5|, 14:18, 16:7. At this the souls of the martyrs now prostrate themselves. By and by their blood shall be avenged upon Babylon; but not yet, whence it appears that the plagues in the fourth seal do not concern Rome in particular.
Re 6:9 THE FIFTH SEAL. And when he had opened the fifth seal. It is evident from the entire change of imagery that, after the fourth seal, the subject of prophetic vision is entirely changed. The horse now disappears, and is seen no more in connection with the opening of the seals. Along with the horse the armed warriors sweep out of sight. The next vision is that of suffering saints. I saw . . . the souls of them that were slain for the word of God. These are clearly Christians who had suffered martyrdom. They had died "for the word of God". They were under the altar. Since the temple is typical of the church, the altar, the center of worship, points to the church and its worship. The brazen altar stood at the door of the tabernacle, and at the bottom of it all the blood of the offerings was poured (Le 4:7). Their position probably points out that their own blood was poured out for Christ.