1. THE ALTAR ON EARTH
a. When the fifth seal was opened, what was seen? Revelation 6:9.
b. Where is the altar of sacrifice in the gospel dispensation—in heaven or on earth? John 19:16, 17; Hebrews 13:10–13. Where were millions of Christian martyrs sacrificed? Matthew 24:21, 22; Revelation 12:11.
“Persecution opened upon the faithful with greater fury than ever before, and the world became a vast battlefield.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 54, 55.
c. Which is the only altar in heaven, and what is offered on that altar? Revelation 8:2–4.
2. LIKE THE BLOOD OF ABEL
a. What were the souls under the altar doing? Revelation 6:10. In what sense can dead people cry? Genesis 4:9, 10; Hebrews 11:4.
“As the blood of Abel cried from the ground, there are voices also crying to God from martyrs’ graves, from the sepulchers of the sea, from mountain caverns, from convent vaults: ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’ (Revelation 6:10).”—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 451.
“Satan and his angels controlled the minds of evil men, while unseen in the midst stood an angel of God, taking the fearful record of their iniquitous decrees and writing the history of deeds too horrible to appear to human eyes. ‘Babylon the great’ was ‘drunken with the blood of the saints’ (Revelation 17:5, 6). The mangled forms of millions of martyrs cried to God for vengeance upon that apostate power.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 59, 60.
b. Why were white robes given to these martyrs? Revelation 6:11 (first part).
“‘[Revelation 6:9, 10 quoted.] And white robes were given unto every one of them [they were pronounced pure and holy]’ (verse 11).”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, p. 198.
“God permits the wicked to prosper and to reveal their enmity against Him, that when they shall have filled up the measure of their iniquity all may see His justice and mercy in their utter destruction. The day of His vengeance hastens, when all who have transgressed His law and oppressed His people will meet the just recompense of their deeds; when every act of cruelty or injustice toward God’s faithful ones will be punished as though done to Christ Himself.”—The Great Controversy, p. 48.
“Christ is acquainted with all that is misunderstood and misrepresented by men. His children can afford to wait in calm patience and trust, no matter how much maligned and despised; for nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest, and those who honor God shall be honored by Him in the presence of men and angels.”—Sons and Daughters of God, p. 308.
3. THE SIXTH SEAL
a. What events take place at the opening of the sixth seal? Revelation 6:12. How are the next two events similar to that of Christ’s prophecy given on the Mount of Olives? Matthew 24:29, 30.
“Prophecy not only foretells the manner and object of Christ’s coming, but presents tokens by which men are to know when it is near. Said Jesus: ‘There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars’ (Luke 21:25). ‘The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory’ (Mark 13:24–26). The revelator thus describes the first of the signs to precede the second advent: [Revelation 6:12 quoted].
“These signs were witnessed before the opening of the nineteenth century. In fulfillment of this prophecy there occurred, in the year 1755, the most terrible earthquake that has ever been recorded.”—The Great Controversy, p. 304.
“ ‘Almost, if not altogether alone, as the most mysterious and as yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind, . . . stands the dark day of May 19, 1780—a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England.’—R. M. Devens, Our First Century, page 89.”—Ibid., p.306.
b. How did Christ explain the time in which these signs were to be fulfilled? Matthew 24:29 (first part).
“What rendered this [dark day of May 19, 1780] more striking was the fact that the time of its fulfillment had been definitely pointed out. In the Saviour’s conversation with His disciples upon Olivet, after describing the long period of trial for the church—the 1260 years of papal persecution, concerning which He had promised that the tribulation should be shortened—He thus mentioned certain events to precede His coming, and fixed the time when the first of these should be witnessed: ‘In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light’ (Mark 13:24). The 1260 days, or years, terminated in 1798. A quarter of a century earlier, persecution had almost wholly ceased.”—Ibid.
4. THE HEAVENS IN COMMOTION
a. How was the prophecy of the stars falling from heaven fulfilled? Revelation 6:13; Matthew 24:29 (third part).
“This prophecy [of the last of the signs] received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. That was the most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has ever been recorded; ‘the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion!’ . . .
“ ‘No language, indeed, can come up to the splendor of that magnificent display; . . . no one who did not witness it can form an adequate conception of its glory. It seemed as if the whole starry heavens had congregated at one point near the zenith, and were simultaneously shooting forth, with the velocity of lightning, to every part of the horizon; and yet they were not exhausted—thousands swiftly followed in the tracks of thousands, as if created for the occasion’—F. Reed, in the Christian Advocate and Journal, Dec. 13, 1833. ‘A more correct picture of a fig tree casting its figs when blown by a mighty wind, it was not possible to behold’—‘The Old Countryman,’ in Portland Evening Advertiser, Nov. 26, 1833.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 333, 334.
b. Whom did the Lord then call to warn people in the United States about the nearness of Christ’s return? What was the result of his work?
“As Elisha was called from following his oxen in the field, to receive the mantle of consecration to the prophetic office, so was William Miller called to leave his plow and open to the people the mysteries of the kingdom of God. With trembling he entered upon his work, leading his hearers down, step by step, through the prophetic periods to the second appearing of Christ.”—Ibid., p.331.
“Many who did not accept his views as to the exact time of the second advent were convinced of the certainty and nearness of Christ’s coming and their need of preparation. In some of the large cities his work produced a marked impression. Liquor dealers abandoned the traffic and turned their shops into meeting rooms; gambling dens were broken up; infidels, deists, Universalists, and even the most abandoned profligates were reformed, some of whom had not entered a house of worship for years. Prayer meetings were established by the various denominations, in different quarters, at almost every hour, businessmen assembling at midday for prayer and praise. There was no extravagant excitement, but an almost universal solemnity on the minds of the people.”—Ibid., p.332.
5. SIGNS IN THE RELIGIOUS WORLD
a. With what opposition did the work of William Miller meet? 2 Peter 3:3, 4.
“It was made to appear a sin, something of which men should be ashamed, to study the prophecies which relate to the coming of Christ and the end of the world. . . .
“While drawing crowded houses of intelligent and attentive hearers, Miller’s name was seldom mentioned by the religious press except by way of ridicule or denunciation.”—The Great Controversy, p. 336.
b. How is the increasing decadence of nominal Christianity described in the end-time prophecies? Matthew 24:12; Luke 18:8 (last part); 2 Timothy 3:1–5.
“Thousands who pride themselves upon their wisdom and independence regard it as an evidence of weakness to place implicit confidence in the Bible; they think it a proof of superior talent and learning to cavil at the Scriptures and to spiritualize and explain away their most important truths.”—Ibid., p.583.
c. How are the very few faithful ones—the true followers of Christ—distinguished from the rest of the world? Matthew 24:13; Luke 21:34–36; Revelation 3:11, 18, 19.
“We need to repent constantly, that we may be constantly victorious.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 959.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
a. Where—in heaven or on earth—is the altar seen by John at the opening of the fifth seal? In what sense can dead saints cry?
b. What shows that the dead saints are in the grave and that their crying is symbolic?
c. What events take place at the opening of the sixth seal? What happened in 1755, 1780, and 1833?
d. Describe the professed Christian world of today.
e. How can genuine Christians be distinguished from nominal Christians?