Discourse 80 - The souls of the martyrs in Rev 6,9: who are they, and where do they come from?




Did John in Rev 6,9 see not souls but just the outpoured blood of the martyrs? / Book, Adolf Pohl 00, page 202

Why is it that Rev 6,9 talks about the souls of the martyrs? / Reply, Denny R. Walter 00 2005-10-16

Is there such a thing as the immortality of the soul?   Discourse 22



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Did John in Rev 6,9 see not souls, but just the outpoured blood of the martyrs? Book AP 00, p. 202)

What does it mean, that John “saw” underneath the altar the souls of the dead (Rev 6,9, FH)? What was actually presented to his sight? Israelites would have known that under the altar there was a gutter into which the blood of sacrificial animals was poured (Lev 4,7). With this outpoured blood the life, or soul, of the sacrificed animals was given back to God. So the view that what John caught sight of here was the outpoured blood of the martyrs is understandable. He explains this vision immediately: ‘I saw souls’. - There is therefore no occasion for asking what these “souls” may have looked like, or for trying to picture the souls as definite shapes. - What came to his mind when he saw the blood was those individuals whose dying had been a death at the altar: that is to say, they had been an innocent sacrifice for God and so had a specially intimate relationship with God. Death had not been able to separate them from God.

(Taken from: “Die Offenbarung des Johannes” [“The Revelation of John”], explained by Adolf Pohl, Part 2, p. 202, Wuppertaler Studienbibel [Wuppertal Study Bible]).



The view advocated by Adolf Pohl here has been favored by a number of other commentators as well, because it offers one important advantage: it exempts us from having to identify these martyrs specifically - they are just “blood” - and at the same time we are relieved of the need of explaining what this specification of a position “under the altar” is supposed to mean. Let us just take a look at this passage in its context:

I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.

Rev 6,9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 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 dwell on the earth?" 6,11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Rev 6, 9-11;


When we examine this more closely, we can see quite plainly that “what John caught sight of here” absolutely was not “the outpoured blood of the martyrs”: on the contrary, he saw these souls before him as having a definite form. Otherwise it would hardly have been possible for him to state that “there was given to each of them a white robe”. So John here really did see the souls of the martyrs, and not just their blood. And if we now want to identify them, there is another similar passage in Revelation that suggests itself.

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the word of God.

Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 20, 4;


So here again we find martyrs who have been killed because of their faith. And we recognize a direct connection with what is stated in Rev 6,9 above: both passages mention the fact that these martyrs have been killed because of the word of God (martyrs of Old Testament times) and because of the testimony they gave to Jesus (martyrs of New Testament times). At the same time, however, this passage (Rev 20,4) also refers to a further group of martyrs. These are “those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand.” Now this quite plainly points to those martyrs who under the dominion of Antichrist have refused to worship the beast, and have been killed for that reason. In Rev 14,12-13 we then find a specific indication of the start of this persecution and the killing of the martyrs under the rule of Antichrist:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!

Rev 14,12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 14,13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them." Rev 14,12-13;


Now although this group of martyrs from the time of the dominion of Antichrist are not explicitly mentioned in the text we cited earlier (Rev 6,9), we nonetheless find that they are implicitly indicated. This is because Rev 6,11 tells us that these martyrs under the altar were told “that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.” And in Rev 15,2, given here below, that is the point we have reached: those faithful who had not worshiped the beast have been killed in the reign of Antichrist, and now stand before the throne of God. They have rejoined their fellow servants and brethren, who have had to wait for them for a little while.

Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name before the throne.

Rev 15,2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. Rev 15,2;


The indication that these martyrs in Rev 15,2 are now standing before the throne of God allows us to recognize certain other implications of the situation. To begin with there is the logical conclusion that these dead martyrs have clearly arrived in heaven - probably as the result of their being resurrected and raptured, just as with members of the congregation. And what is stated in the passage quoted above (Rev 6,11), to the effect that the martyrs there should “rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also”, leads to the indubitable conclusion that these Christian faithful who are put to death (from chapter 13 on) under the dominion of the beast, the demonic Antichrist, are the last who will be persecuted and killed for their faith on earth.

(See also Table 14: “The Revelation - classified by events.”)


From this time on - that is, from chapter 16 of Revelation - there are no more believing Christians left on earth. And it is starting from this very time that the fearful wrath of God, with the seven plagues of the bowls, comes to be visited on the worshipers of the beast. This shows us that the promises made by Paul in his first epistle to the Thessalonians will be fulfilled - and these tell us that the Lord has not destined us for his wrath: on the contrary, all believing Christians will be safe in heaven from the wrath of God that, starting with the plagues of the bowls in Rev 16, reveals itself from heaven against all unbelievers.

Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

1The 1,9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 1,10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. 1The 1, 9-10;

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ

1The 5,9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5,10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 1The 5, 9-10;

For because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Eph 5,6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Eph 5,6;

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

Rom 1,18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 1,19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. Rom 1,18-19;


Paul likewise indicates, in the above passages from his epistles to the Ephesians and the Romans, that the wrath of God will be revealed against all the ungodliness of the sons of disobedience. Unfortunately these promises that the congregation will be preserved from the wrath of God are very often misinterpreted, for want of an understanding of the big picture - being taken instead to refer only to the time that starts in Rev 16, in fact to the entire period of the Great Tribulation; and as most people are naturally anxious to avoid suffering, they then postulate that the Rapture of the congregation takes place at an earlier stage, before the Great Tribulation. This denies to the brethren of the Last Days, who are described by both Paul (in Rom 8,37) and John - in speaking of the martyrs of Rev 15,2 - as victorious conquerors, any kind of courage in confessing their faith, and thus even the capability of overcoming evil.

After the end of the dominion of Antichrist and at the start of the Millennium, we see from Rev 20,4 that both groups - those from Rev 6,9-11 and those from Rev 15,2, in other words all the martyrs of all nations and of all time who have been put to death for their faith in the one and only God and his Son Jesus Christ - will come to life again and reign with the Lord Jesus in the Millennium as priests and kings.

This gives us an apparent proof of the identity of these souls, in the light of Scripture. What we are still lacking is an answer to the question where they actually are at the time of Rev 6,9, and where they have so suddenly come from. The localization “under the altar” (as in the Elberfeld digital Bible) is not just inaccurate, it is also highly complex.

-  Is this directly under the altar (as the Elberfeld digital Bible, the King James Bible and the RSV put it), or is John here describing an area that is situated at the lower end of the altar, and so underneath the altar (Luther, Darby, NAS)?

-  Which altar is the one meant here? John sees two altars in heaven in Revelation: in Rev 8,5 and 14,18.

-  Is it even an altar in heaven that is referred to - or does the specification “underneath the altar” not rather mean the altar on earth below, in the Temple of Jerusalem?


We can hardly answer these questions without the help of additional points of reference. So in hope of explaining them, let us pick up another indication. These souls are told in Rev 6,11 that they should “rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also”. This statement permits us to draw at least two conclusions. First of all, as we are told that they are to rest “a little while longer” this confirms the fact that they have been resting prior to this as well. And from this again we can infer that for the short time of rest remaining to them they will return to the place where they were before their appearance underneath the altar. If we now try to fathom what Scripture means when it talks of “rest”, we find some very precise indications.

Then you will enter into rest and rise again at the end of the age.

Dan 12,13 "But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." Dan 12,13;

Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.

Acts 2, 25 "For David says of Him, ‘I saw the LORD always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. 2,26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope; 2,27 because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy to undergo decay. 2,28 ‘You have made known to me ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’ Acts 2,25-28;

They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way.

Isa 57,1 The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, 57,2 He enters into peace; They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way. Isa 57, 1- 2;


If we compare these statements with our text quoted earlier (Rev 14,13), where we are told with reference to the martyrs:

"Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."

Rev 14,13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them." Rev 14,13;


- we can see that this place of rest refers to the realm of the dead. So that is where these souls, the martyrs, rest in hope from their labors. And it is from there that they will rise to life again, when their fellow servants and brothers, who are yet to be killed under the dominion of Antichrist, will have rejoined them. Rev 20,5-6, incidentally, gives us a further confirmation of the realm of the dead being the place of origin and place of rest of the martyrs of Rev 6,9.

The rest of the dead did not come to life.

Rev 20,5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 20,6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. Rev 20, 5- 6;


The verse Rev 20,4 ends with the statement that “they (the martyrs) came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”. In the above passage (Rev 20,5) we then learn that it is in the First Resurrection that these martyrs come back to life, and that the other dead will not come to life until the thousand years are completed, i.e. in the General Resurrection of the Last Judgment at the end of the world. What is most relevant to our theme here is the statement we find in Rev 20,5: “the rest of the dead did not come to life”. Seeing that Scripture leads us to assume that all the dead are in the realm of the dead, this first of all confirms that this is the First Resurrection of the dead (but not the rising up and Rapture of the congregation!); but on the other hand it also implies that the martyrs who have come to life in the First Resurrection, just like those of their number mentioned here in Rev 6,9, have originally come from the realm of the dead.

(See also Discourse 07: “The Rapture and the First Resurrection: a single event?”)


So we have now identified the place of origin of these martyr souls in Rev 6,9. They come from the realm of the dead. But we still need to explain why it is that John here sees the “souls” of the martyrs. According to the Old Testament - and also in Rev 16.3 - the soul is in the blood of the living creature, and dies with the death of the body. So if these martyrs come from the realm of the dead, it follows that they should be not souls but spirits. Seeing that here again a direct approach to this question is likely to be extremely tricky, we may first of all attempt to get a little closer to our theme by analyzing the term “soul” as it occurs in Scripture.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Why is it that Rev 6,9 talks about the souls of the martyrs? / Reply DRW 00 2005-10-16)

1. If the soul is defined by the living being itself (the living human being, the living animal), then there shouldn’t actually be any creatures without souls, correct? Or do only creatures with blood have a soul? But what then is the situation with the various insect species? And another point that would interest me: do Satan and his angels, his host of demons, actually have souls - seeing that they are also alive, after all?

2. Why is it that Revelation 6:9 talks about the souls of the martyrs? At this point in time they are after all not living, nor can they be supposed to have blood. Shouldn’t the passage be referring to their spirits? Their souls should actually be already dead. We find the same thing in Revelation 20:4, where we are told that the souls that without any doubt already (or still) exist there come back to life.

3. We find it written in Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This again seems to me to suggest that body and soul should be considered separately. If the living human being is himself or herself a soul, wouldn’t people then be perfectly well able to kill the soul?

One more question, this time not directly connected with the soul: in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it is written that the spirit returns to God. But this would mean that after death we go to heaven immediately. Must the spirit not first of all enter the realm of the dead, which after all is the place where God is not in any way present?

(Denny R. Walter, denny_r._walter@web.de



The essential issues from the questions presented above have already been discussed a number of times here in this discussion forum at Immanuel.at, but given the difficult nature of the topic and the varying levels of information of the contributors it was only to be expected that divergent views should have emerged on repeated occasions. So in order to present the explanations that follow in the most transparent way possible, we will try to throw some light on this background of theoretical knowledge as well. This will extend the scope of the commentary somewhat, but it offers the interested reader the possibility of fully entering into and evaluating the conclusions we come to. To give a better overview, the scriptural passages referred to in the questions above will be directly inserted following the quotation of the question.

Question 1:

    “If the soul is defined by the living being itself (the living human being, the living animal), then there shouldn’t actually be any creatures without souls, correct? Or do only creatures with blood have a soul? But what then is the situation with various insect species. And another point that would interest me: do Satan and his angels, his host of demons, actually have souls - seeing that they are also alive, after all?”

For the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.

Deut 12,23 "Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 12,24 "You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. 12,25 "You shall not eat it, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the LORD. Deut 12,23-25;

For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life

Lev 17,13 "So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 17,14 "For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’ Lev 17,10-14;

I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with every living soul that is with you.

Gen 9,9 "Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 9,10 and with every living soul that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 9,11 "I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." Gen 9, 9-11;


The soul has always been, and continues to be a fertile subject of discussion. Although psychology (derived from the Greek psyche = soul), seeing itself as a science of the soul, has chosen the latter as the focus of its research, psychologists’ conceptions of the human soul are naturally quite different from those we find presented in the Bible. So with a view to imposing some limits on the discussion, we will here take the term “soul” as we find it in the Bible as our exclusive point of departure.

And yet even with these basic premises, there are still quite enough different opinions and points of view to be taken into account. First of all, some quite fundamental questions: whether the soul exists at all, or whether the term “soul” - especially in the Old Testament - is not rather to be understood as a synonym for “life” or “alive”. The question has also frequently been asked whether references to the soul do not really mean the spirit of the human individual. So with a view to documenting in this connection the basis of the scripturally based commentary presented here, I would like to cast light on these issues with the help of the two following passages from Scripture.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deut 6,4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 6,5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deut 6, 4- 5;

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Mk 12,29 Jesus answered, "The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; 12,30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. Mk 12,29-30;


In the first passage quoted above, Deut 6,4-5, God himself speaks, and lists the various possible spheres of human action:

  - the heart (body, flesh)

  - the soul

  - might (of the spirit)


In the second scriptural passage it is the Son of God speaking. He thus repeats and confirms these three components of human existence, though he identifies “might” more specifically with the “mind” - that is to say, with the mind or spirit of the human being. So we can take it as read, on the basis of Scripture, that body, soul and spirit are independent and specific components of the human individual. This has now clarified our fundamental uncertainty about the existence of the soul in a positive way, and we can now address the question what difference the soul makes to a person, and whence it derives (or wherein it consists).

As we have seen from the passage quoted earlier (Deut 12,23), the soul is in the blood. And seeing that blood is found only in flesh, according to Scripture it is indeed the case that only beings with blood have a soul. All living creatures that have no flesh - and that does also include insects - have no blood, and so do not have a soul either (John the Baptist fed on locusts). Seen from this angle, the commandment to eat the flesh but not the blood is altogether illuminating. In ingesting the blood, the soul of the animal, a person would be “incorporating” its instincts and aggressions and so on as well. Incidentally, this commandment applies not just to Jews but to Christians too! The Apostolic Council of Jerusalem upheld just four commandments for the Gentile faithful:

They shall abstain from idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.

Acts 15,19 "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 15,20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. Acts 15,19-20;


The eternal existence of every human being.

Every individual human being who leaves the amniotic sac of his or her mother alive in being physically born – who is "born of water" (amniotic fluid), that is to say (Jn 3:5) – receives a human spirit (1Cor 2:11) from God (Jn 4:24) with eternal existence (Mt 25:46). In the first, temporal and earthly part of their existence – in their life, human beings have the possibility of deciding, in complete freedom, without any compulsion and with the help of the spirit given them by God, whether or not they will give this God, the creator of all life, their complete trust and entire love.

After death, the human body returns to the dust from which it was made (Gen 2:7), but their spirit goes to the Kingdom of the Dead (Dan 12:2; 1Pet 3:18-19; 1Cor 15:23-24), where they pass the time until their resurrection in a state resembling sleep (1Thess 4:15-16).

In the Resurrection (Rom 6:4-5), the "rebirth from the spirit" (Mt 19:28; 1Pet 3:18; Jn 3:7), human beings are again given a body (Mt 22:30; Jn 3:8; Rom 8:10-11), similar to that of the Son of God after his resurrection (Jn 20:26-27).

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1Cor 15,42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 15,43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 15,44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 15,45 So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, became a living soul." (Gen 2,7) The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 15,48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 15,49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. 1Cor 15,42-49;

With this body the human being will then stand at the Last Judgment before the Son of God, who has been given the task by God (Jn 5:22, 26-27) of judging every human being on the basis of their earthly deeds and their decision for or against God while still alive (Rom 2:16).

Anyone who has decided for God and faith in his Son Jesus Christ in the course of his or her life (Jn 17:3) has the possibility of invoking before this court the expiatory death of the Son of God as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of all humanity, and so atoning for his or her own sins and derelictions against the law of God (Jn 3:16), and so will meet with the mercy of God (Jn 5:24). Those people who have not accepted this faith cannot have their sins forgiven them, and so they will be condemned (Jn 3:36).

After the Last Judgment these condemned persons will spend their eternal existence in the darkness (Mt 22:13) of the damnation of the eternal fire (Mt 18:8), with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 13:49-50) over the fact that they refused to come to faith while they were alive and have now come to realize that they can never again make up for it, and so cannot ever expect any further change in their condition.

Those who have been forgiven, on the other hand, will spend their eternal life (Mt 25:46) in the New Creation in the light of God on a new earth (Rev 20:11) and under a new sky created by God (Rev 21:1-3,5).

The Son of God said:

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." Jn 14,15-17;

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." Jn 11,25-26;


In the light of this, the well known evangelist and preacher Wilhelm Busch said to his hearers, "You don’t need to accept the message I am giving you. You can choose not to convert to Jesus. But just be aware that this means you are choosing hell! You have complete freedom – it’s your choice!" (People who are unable to believe)

(See also Discourse 22: “Is there such a thing as the immortality of the soul?”)



For all those who would like to have it short and modern:
The spirit of man is the "software" – the operating system – which works the "hardware" – the body. At runtime end of the hardware, the software is stored in the cloud. At the end of the world, the software will receive a new hardware with unlimited running time.




The above scriptural passages also give us a clear basis for answering the question whether demons have a soul. Demons are beings of another dimension. They are not made of flesh and blood, but as Paul writes in his epistle to the Ephesians, they are rulers of the world and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. They are not earthly or fleshly, and so do not have a soul either.

The world forces of this darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Eph 6,11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 6,12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 6,13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Eph 6,11-13;


Question 2:

    “Why is it that Revelation 6:9 talks about the souls of the martyrs? At this point in time they are after all not living, nor can they be supposed to have blood. Shouldn’t the passage be referring to their spirits? Their souls should actually be already dead. We find the same thing in Revelation 20:4, where we are told that the souls that without any doubt already (or still) exist there come back to life.”

I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.

Rev 6,9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 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 dwell on the earth?" 6,11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Rev 6, 9-11;

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the word of God.

Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 20, 4;


Now this is precisely the question with which we are concerned in this Discourse. As we have already shown in the first part above, at the time represented by Rev 6,9 these souls of the martyrs have not yet been resurrected. They clearly come from the realm of the dead, rather in the same way as the prophet Samuel rose from the realm of the dead when King Saul asked a medium to conjure him.

Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up??

1Sam 28,13 The king said to her, "Do not be afraid; but what do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a divine being coming up out of the earth." 18,14 He said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage. 28,15 Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" And Saul answered, "I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do." 28,16 Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has departed from you and has become your adversary? 1Sam 28,13-16;


Now as Mr Walter quite rightly argues in the above comment, Rev 6,9 should actually only be speaking of the spirit of the martyrs, as these no longer have physical being and so have no blood. And this is just what we find with Samuel in the above passage, when the medium sees him as a spirit (not a soul) that comes up out of the earth. Nor can the presumption that these martyrs have gone through some process of transformation that would change them from spirits into souls be explained on the basis of Scripture, seeing that on receiving their white robes they return after all to the realm of the dead, to wait there for their fellow servants.

The only point of reference available to us here is the circumstance that both here and in Rev 20,4 we have to do with martyrs. That is to say, with people who have been put to death because of their faith and their testifying to God and Jesus Christ. This sets them apart from all the rest of those who have died and are in the realm of the dead. And so it could be conceivable here that the blood, the soul of these murdered servants of God should continue to exist even after their deaths, and so might cry out to God as once did the blood or the soul of Abel.

The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.

Gen 4,9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?" 4,10 He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Gen 4, 9-10;


A second aspect that places these people above all others, of course, is the fact that in the Millennium they will reign with the Lord as priests and kings. But I must admit that I am unable here to resolve the causal issue - whether they become priests and kings because they are martyrs, or whether they had to be put to death for their faith because they were destined to be co-rulers in the millennial kingdom. The first option would be more in keeping with our human ideas of justice, in as much as they have remained strong in their faith right up to their deaths and their lives have been brought to an end by the ungodly. The second option is more like God’s approach, and is brought to our attention in Rev 5,9-10, where the martyrs have been purchased for God by the blood of the Lord Jesus and so have become a royal priesthood.

You were slain and You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God.

Rev 5,9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 5,10 "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." Rev 5, 9-10;


Question 3:

    “We find it written in Matthew 10:28: ‘And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’ This again seems to me to suggest that body and soul should be considered separately. If the living human being is himself or herself a soul, wouldn’t people then be perfectly well able to kill the soul?”

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul.

Mt 10,27 "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 10,28 "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 10,29 "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 10,30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 10,31 "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 10,32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 10,33 "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Mt 10,27-33;


And now, in our discussion of the soul, we come to the opposite end of the spectrum. While some are fundamentally doubtful about the very existence of the soul, others - like the Catholic church, for example - postulate that the soul is immortal. The above scriptural passage seems to provide the best possible refutation of this position, as it tells us that at the very latest the existence of the soul will come to an end in hell. It must be said, however, that the parallel passage in Luke is phrased slightly differently.

Fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Lk 12,4 "I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 12,5 "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Lk 12, 4- 5;


Here it is not the soul that is referred to, but rather the physical body. The same applies to the following passage from Matthew (5,29-30):

For it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Mt 5,2 "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 5,30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. Mt 5,29-30;


Although we are here concerned with the soul - or perhaps for that very reason - in the light of the scriptural passages quoted above, we must also take the body into account. According to Scripture, after the General Resurrection and the Last Judgment in which they are condemned, the unrighteous and the ungodly will be cast into everlasting fire. And seeing that the Lord speaks of the body here, we must assume that in the General Resurrection of the dead every one of these resurrected individuals will come back to life and will again receive the body and the soul that he or she had while alive. But this again is a strong suggestion that all individuals, while they remain in the realm of the dead, need some vehicle for their identity. And this, now, can only be the third existential component - in other words, the spirit.

The following passages are admittedly from the Old Testament, but they likewise use the term “soul” in connection with human beings, people, life and the body, and so indicate that souls can die or be put to death.

Let my soul die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!

Num 23,10 "Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number the fourth part of Israel? Let my soul die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!" Num 23,10;

Their soul die in youth, And their life perishes among the cult prostitutes.

Job 36,13 "But the godless in heart lay up anger; They do not cry for help when He binds them. 36,14 "Their soul die in youth, And their life perishes in the bachelorhood. Job 36,13-14;


So in considering the passage from Matthew (10,28), in my view it is also important to be aware of the fact that here the Lord is speaking first to the disciples - to the faithful, that is - and then he goes on to mention “those who kill the body”. So he is urging his disciples not to be afraid of the martyr’s death, as in such a situation only their bodies, not their souls, can be killed. In the same way as with the question discussed earlier, it seems that we are again concerned here with believers who are put to death because of their faith and their testimony. And as we have already mentioned above, there is evidently a principle - or perhaps even an immanent necessity written into the system - that those people, the martyrs, who are to come to life again and be restored to physical existence before the Millennium, in order to reign on earth for these thousand years as priests with the Lord Jesus, should retain their soul in addition to the spirit during their temporary sojourn in the realm of the dead.

Also the Lord himself who had been murdered because of his testimony and therefore is to be seen as martyr too according to the following passages of Scriptures was with his soul in the realm of the dead.

He looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to Hades.

Acts 2,29 "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 2,30 "And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendents on his throne, 2.31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades. nor did His flesh suffer decay. 2,32 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Acts 2,29-32;


 Here Peter quotes and interprets Psalm 16 where David prophesied in the Holy Spirit from Jesus Christ:

For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

Ps 16,8 I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 16,9 Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 16,10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 16,11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Ps 16, 8-11;


At the end of their thousand years of priestly service, even the martyrs will abandon their “earthly tent”, as Paul calls it in 2Cor 5,1, and enter the New Jerusalem in their new and spiritual body.

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God.

2Cor 5,1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 5,2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. 2Cor 5,1-2;

He will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Rom 8,10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 8,11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Rom 8,10-11;


If this conclusion is correct, when considering the question whether the living human being is a soul that could be killed, we must make a distinction. It makes a difference whether the person who has been killed is a believing Christian who has been killed on account of his faith or not. In the case of all other human beings - both believing Christians and godless unbelievers - if they have not been put to death for their faith (and this includes all who die in their beds), in my view the soul is just extinguished on the death of the body. It follows that it is only the spirit, not the soul, that rests in the realm of the dead.

To put to death some who should not die and to keep others alive who should not live.

Ezk 13,19 "For handfuls of barley and fragments of bread, you have profaned Me to My people to put to death some who should not die and to keep others alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies." Eze 13,19;


(See also Discourse 22: “Is there such a thing as the immortality of the soul?”)


Question 4:

    “One more question, this time not directly connected with the soul: in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it is written that the spirit returns to God. But this would mean that after death we go to heaven immediately. Must the spirit not first of all enter the realm of the dead, which after all is the place where God is not in any way present?”

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;

Gen 2,5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 2,6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 2,7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Gen 2, 5- 7;

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Ecc 12,5 Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. 12,6 Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; 12,7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. 12,8 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity!" Ecc 12, 5- 8;


Here again, just as with the previous question, we are concerned with the final state of those two components that in the last resort form the basis of human existence: the body returns to the dust from which it was taken, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. But seeing that the spirit accompanies the human individual for the duration of his earthly life and is an intrinsic part of him, it is the spirit that likewise continues to represent the human being - with all his good or evil properties - in the realm of the dead, until the time of his resurrection. Only after this - after the resurrection of the dead, and the Last Judgment - will the spirit of the Christian believer return to God and be united with the Spirit of God, just as the Lord Jesus is united with that same Spirit. The Lord confirms this in his prayer for the apostles and for all those who as a result of their preaching will come to believe in the one and only God and in his Son Jesus Christ.

That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us.

Jn 17,11 "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 17,12 "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 17,13 "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 17,14 "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17,15 "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 17,16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17,17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 17,18 "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 17,19 "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

17,20 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 17,21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 17,22 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 17,23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 17,24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 17,25 "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 17,26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." Jn 17,11-26;


Mr Walter’s concluding assertion however, that God is “not in any way present” in the realm of the dead, is one with which I cannot wholly concur. God is present, through his Spirit, in every part of his creation (cf. Rev 5,6) and the realm of the dead - the Sheol - does not make any exception:

Naked is Sheol before Him, And Abaddon has no covering.

Job 26,5 "The departed spirits tremble Under the waters and their inhabitants. 26,6 "Naked is Sheol before Him, And Abaddon has no covering. Job 26,5-6;


This is also proved by the fact that here, in Rev 6,9, these martyrs underneath the altar - wherever that may actually be located - cry out to God for vengeance for their blood, and clearly their prayer is heard. It also seems that since the death of the Lord, and his three days sojourn in the realm of the dead (Mt 12,40), a change has occurred in that quarter. At that time the Lord preached the gospel, the good news, to the dead - who could not have learned anything while they were alive about salvation through God’s grace as a result of his death on the cross, because they were dead before it happened. All those among the dead who at that time, in the realm of the dead, availed themselves of this redeeming sacrifice have thus acquired a different status, and since then have been in “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk 16,22-31), or as the Lord himself puts it in his response to the penitent thief when on the cross, in “Paradise” (Lk 23,40-43).

What does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth??

Eph 4,8 Therefore it says, "when He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men." 4,9 (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 4,10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) Eph 4, 8-10;

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead.

1Pet 4,4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 3,5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.4,6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. 1Pet 4, 4- 6;


(See also Excursus 09: “The Paradise.”)