Useful Bible Studies > Revelation Commentary > chapter 16
An altar is a place where people offer gifts to God. The altar in heaven is the place where the prayers of God’s people rise to God. God considers their prayers to be a valuable gift to him.
In Revelation 6:9-11, God’s people who had died because of their trust in God, appealed to him. They were praying from a place below God’s altar. It seems that they had found a place of safety from this world’s cruelty there. Perhaps that has a special meaning. It is in prayer that God’s people find his help and his protection (Psalm 121:1-2; Psalm 91).
In that earlier passage, John saw that those people were appealing to God for judgement. They asked God to make a judgement against the world’s people, who were responsible for their murders. The reply then was that they must wait for that judgement. God would not issue it yet, because more of his people still must die for him. The crimes of this world’s people were not yet complete.
Now, in Revelation 16:4-7, the situation has changed. There has been a terrible judgement, and it belongs to the final series of judgements. The world’s water supplies have become blood. So, people have to drink it.
John would have considered it very awful to hear about such a punishment. He belonged to Israel’s people, and God’s law forbids Israel’s people to drink blood (Leviticus chapter 17). There is a similar law for people from every nation in Genesis 9:4 and Acts 15:29.
However, the angel, a special servant of God in charge of water, insists that the punishment is right. It is a punishment to show that the world’s people are responsible for the murders of God’s people. They caused the blood of God’s people to spill out, onto the ground; and now they must drink blood.
Then a voice comes from the altar to declare agreement. All God’s judgements are right and proper. God is right to answer the prayers and appeals of his people in this manner.
Next part: Judgements by the sun, and by darkness (Revelation 16:8-11)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.