- Under the altar refers to the blood from the slaughtered animals of the Old Testament sacrificial ritual, as the blood is drained out from the base of the altar (Ex. 29:12; Lev. 4:7-25, 24; 5:9; 8:15; 9:9).
- Souls of those who had been slain refers to those who have been martyred because they remained faithful to Christ. It denotes suffering, injustice, and persecution, but the application is that they remained true to the faith, regardless of circumstances. In context, this image indicates that the martyrs are like sacrifices, just as Christ was when he represented the Passover Lamb, innocent and undeserving, whose blood was shed. In Christ’s case, it was for our redemption; in the martyr’s case, it was seemingly in vain, but in reality, it glorified God (Phil. 2:6-11).
- How long was an Old Testament prayer of entreaty, as making an appeal before God for vindication, seeking that the duration of suffering be limited, or for judgment to come sooner (Psalm 79:5-10; Isa. 6:11; Jer. 47:6; Zech. 1:12).
- Inhabitants of the earth refers to all of humanity being divided up in two sections that cut across race and place: the people who belong to God, who are elected and redeemed, and those who are rebellious, who reject the Truth, remaining in sin and who are hostile to God (Phil. 3:10, 20; Rev. 8:13; 11:10; 13:3,8-14; 17:2,8).
- Avenge our blood is an axiom, a cry for vindication or retribution for the righteous who have been wronged. In Jesus’ time, this referred to guilt laid upon those who took innocent lives. God is the One who is to avenge (Gen. 4:8-10; Duet. 32:43; 2 Chron. 24:20-22; Psalm 70: 10; Zech 1:1; Matt. 23:35).
- White robe. In ancient times, white was normally associated with good and purity, depending on the context. In describing a priest, it meant honor, blessedness, and purity; as with a “horse,” it meant conquest. In contrast, black was associated with bad. The dead were buried in white and priests were dressed in white (Rev. 3:4-5,18; 4:4; 7:9, 13; 19:14).
- Told to wait a little refers to God’s predetermined sovereignty. He is in control and bows to no one’s schedule. In answer to the question of how long to the end? God’s reply is in His time, which is perfect. Until the full number has been reached, many see this as the call of the church to expand and proclaim the Kingdom until it comes to its fruition (Apocalyptic books of 1 Enoch 47:4 and 2 Esdras 4:35-37; Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim 3:16; Gal. 3:8; Rev. 10:11).