How Long, O Lord?



In the book of Revelation when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, John saw the souls of the martyrs underneath the altar in the throne room of God.  In Rev. 6:10 the scripture says, “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?'”  This plea for God to execute His judgment on the wicked may surprise some of us.  It may even offend some.  God, however, did not condemn this plea.  Instead, He comforted these martyrs and told them that they must rest a while longer until the number of martyrs would be completed (v. 11).  The implication is that God will at some point do as these martyrs requested.

The sentiment of the martyrs in Rev. 6 was primarily the result of the persecution Christians were then suffering at the hands of the Roman Empire.  For many generations, especially here in the United States, the idea of persecution and a resultant plea for God to execute judgment on the wicked were only theoretical exercises.  We have lived in relative peace and security as believers because our system of government recognized the value of the Christian religion and generally avoided any intrusion into the exercise of our faith.  That time appears to be over.  Not only are Christians under assault from the generally recognized forces of evil, but we are now also beginning to see overt persecution from our government.  As these things accelerate, we worry about what will ultimately befall us.

Some Christians remain aloof and seemingly unconcerned about the current state of affairs in our country.  There is no adequate explanation for such blindness.  As surprising as this is, however, there are other professed believers who seem to be aiding and abetting the enemy in this struggle.  They do so by accepting the notion that certain kinds of behavior no longer fall under condemnation as sin.  They do so also by supporting and endorsing candidates for public office whose stated agendas are contrary to biblical truth.  They seem oblivious to the fact that they are by their actions letting the wolf into the sheepfold.

On the other hand, faithful Christians recognize the dangers that we face today from ungodly influences.  Like the martyrs in Rev. 6, they cry out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Faithful Christians wonder how long God will allow the world to further debase itself.  When they view the situation in the world today, they can see that we must be as close as any previous generation has been to the conditions that prompted the great flood of Noah’s day.  In Gen. 6:5 the scripture says that at that time every intent of the thoughts of mankind were only evil continually.  This certainly seems to be the case today.

The sentiment of Rev. 6 is understandable.  Christians are salt and light in the world (Mt. 5:13-16).  Their desire, like that of their Father in heaven, is that all people would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).  They want only to live in peace and to influence as many as possible for good.  The actions of the wicked in every segment of society make these goals more difficult to attain, and so we wonder how long the Lord will wait to make things right.

Even so, Christians have a hope that no others possess.  We are promised that the suffering of life will not compare to the glory of heaven (Rom. 8:18).  We are promised that when we enter heaven God will wipe away all tears (Rev. 21:4).  We are also promised that the wicked will not go unpunished (2 Th. 1:7-8).  Therefore, like the martyrs in Rev. 6, we must remain faithful and wait a while longer for God to make things right.  And we know that He will.