Avenge our blood?


“How long will it be, holy and true master, 9 before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?”
Universalists sometimes argue that God would not teach us to love our enemies if He did not do the same. Yet this verse seems to teach “retributive justice”, does it not? How do the universalist among us here see this verse with regards to the concept of “vengeance”? Is vengeance redemptive? It sounds more like “pay back” in the above context!
Any thoughts?


Here’s my kickoff with a short answer. Ancient Church Universalists believed that temporary punishments in hell are redemptive. Likewise, divine vengeance in this life or the afterlife is redemptive.


Sure, that is the generally given answer. But there does seem to be a distinction between discipline and vengeance in that God disciplines believers, yet “condemns” the world.
1Cor 11:32-
But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.


Roofus, I see it as the difference between being saved or lost. The saved are already in God’s grace and are disciplined within the context of already being forgiven while the lost are disciplined within the context of not already being forgiven.


Good question (could we all try to name the passage when referring to specific verses?).

I think it is difficult to lift things out of the Book of Revelation and make a general application here for a number of reasons -

  • Apocalyptic language is full of extreme imagery and highly charged language with its visions and strange beasties and actions (this quote being part of the breaking open of the fifth seal).

  • The people making the request are those who have been specifically martyred for their belief.

  • Many people believe that passages such as this say more about the times in which it was written and are a response to the slaughter of Christians by Rome (also depending on whether you think it was written before or after 70 AD - although by all accounts no Christians died in the troubles in Jerusalem at that time).

It also ties in with the difficulty that both believers and non-believers alike have with what might be described as ‘blood thirsty’ passages. The other being the slaughter of the Amalekites down to their women and children.


I don’t see any problem with considering a portion lifted from a book if it brings up a challenge to a viewpoint.
For instance, if you read a news article that had George Bush saying “I agree with all of Barack Obama’s political views and always have”, you would want to read it again and get to the root of this!



Agreed with the GWB example but just making the point that Rev is a vision and so not as easy to lift bits from than say an epistle or Gospel (others may disagree).


Slowly catching up on back-posts, Roofus…

The above context is too limited. The wider context of RevJohn demonstrates that this is not merely payback, but leads quite literally to “re-tribution”: the kings of the earth (who are responsible for the blood of the martyrs, though this isn’t immediately obvious at the particular verse you quoted) are “shepherded” by Christ in chp 19 in just the payback that the martyrs have been asking for, leaving the bodies of the kings scattered for the vultures. (And using imagery hearkening back to the Shepherd’s Psalm!) The next time we see those kings of the earth, who have only been villains elsewhere in RevJohn, is in the final chapter, bringing their riches into the New Jerusalem, where (avowedly) no one can enter who still loves and insists upon their sinning, but only those who have washed themselves clean in the river of life flowing without cost from under the throne of God and out the never-closed gate of the city.

(Note the connection there between where the saving mercy is coming from, in chp 22, and where the cries for vengeance are coming from in the quote you gave. Remember the mercy-seat notion exemplified by the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector: “Lord, make room for me, the sinner, beneath your mercy-seat!” Also keep in mind that in the New/Heavenly Jerusalem there is no Temple, for the Lord God Himself is the Temple; and that the altar in the Temple represents the throne of God.)

So yes, it is re-tributive justice: the bad guys are led to bring tribute to God again. (But that isn’t what most people think of anymore by the term “retributive”, unfortunately.)

Moreover, in the even wider context, the term “avenge” is also clearly used in other scriptural texts to mean discipline of people whom God intends to save but who at the moment aren’t in good standing with God (to say the least). So the use of the term “vengeance” doesn’t necessarily indicate hopeless punishment in itself.

So, for example:

The situation being described here near the end of chp 11 is exactly the same situation (in principle) being described in Heb 6:4-8 and 10:26-31; where readers have long noted with some alarm that the language (at first glance anyway) looks hopeless, because it’s the exact same language they’ve been taught to regard as hopeless condemnation. One way around it (infamously attributed to the notorious Jonathan Edwards sermon) is to pretend that this has nothing to do with Christians at all. Another way is the Arminianistic fashion, where even the ‘best’ Christians may utterly and hopelessly lose their salvation. Another way is the typical Calvinistic fashion, where these ultra-condemned sinners must be those who were only pretending to be Christians and were never even intended by God to be saved in the first place.

And then there’s the katholic way, where we read for full context, such as with 1 Cor 11:32 :wink: , and realize that as bad as things are for those backsliding Christians in EpistHeb, God is disciplining them in order to save them. But the point is that the language in EpistHeb is exactly the same “vengeance/condemnation” language that looks on the face of it hopeless.

“For at our sinning voluntarily after obtaining the recognition of the truth, there is no longer left a sacrifice concerned with sins, but a certain fearful waiting for judging and fiery jealousy, about to be eating the hostile! Anyone repudiating Moses’ law is dying without pity on [the testimony of] two or three witnesses–so how much worse punishment are you supposing will be accounted worthy, the one who tramples on the Son of God, and deems the blood of the covenant to be contaminating by which he is hallowed, outraging the Spirit of Grace?! Fearful it is to be falling into the hands of the Living God!” “For it is impossible for those once enlightened, having also tasted the celestial generosity and becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit and tasting the ideal declaration of God along with the powerful deeds of the oncoming age, yet falling aside, to be renewing again to repentance while they themselves are crucifying again the Son of God and holding Him up to infamy… Bringing forth thorns and star-thistles, [such a land] is disqualified, and near a curse whose consummation is burning.” “For we are acquainted with the One Who is saying ‘Veangence is Mine!’ ‘I will repay!’ the Lord is saying!”

See? It’s impossible for those people to be saved now, right? No mercy remains for them, yes? It isn’t only the blood of martyrs God is about to avenge, but the Blood of God Himself. So if the cries for the martyrs beneath the mercy-seat are for merciless vengeance, how much more hopeless must this avengement be?

But the people who are doing this are the same people in 1 Cor 11 who are eating unworthily of the table of the Lord. You yourself seem to agree that their disciplining punishment now (even to death) is for their own good, so that they will not be condemned later. But it would be difficult to find condemnation-later language that is more (apparently) hopelessly gung-ho than the wrath of God on these same people in Heb 6 & 10. Vengeance is vengeance; and there is no longer a sacrifice remaining for sin, but only an anticipation of the fiery jealousy of God about to be eating the hostile.

Even in EpistHeb, though, there is indication that the situation isn’t hopeless. “The Lord will be judging His people,” quote the Hebraist; so (contra Calvinism) they are in fact His people, and the Hebraist goes on to note later that, as frightening as it rightly is, God punishes His people in order to save them from their sins–because He loves them. If He didn’t love them, and didn’t intend for them to inherit, He’d let them go on their way doing whatever they wanted, and not punish them.

“Now, you have become oblivious of the entreaty which is arguing with you as with sons: ‘My son (quoting the Proverb), do not disdain the discipline of the Lord, nor yet faint when being exposed by Him. For those whom the Lord is loving He is disciplining, and He is scourging every son to whom He is assenting.’ For discipline you are enduring. God is bringing it to you as to sons; for what son is there whom the father is not disciplining? Now, if you are without discipline–of which all have become partakers [cf Rom 11]–consequently you are bastards, not sons! Indeed, we had the fathers of our flesh as discipliners, and we respected them afterward; so, should we not much rather be subjected to the Father of the spirits, and be living?! For indeed, these (father of our flesh) disciplined for a few days as it seemed best to them, yet that One (does so) for our expedience so that we may be partaking in His holiness. Now, all discipline, indeed, for the present does not seem to be a thing of joy but of sorrow, yet subsequently it (i.e. all discipline) is rendering the peaceable fruit of fair-togetherness to those exercised through it. Therefore: stiffen the flaccid hands and the paralyzed knees and make upright tracks for your feet, that the lame one may not turn aside but rather may be healed.” (Heb 12:5-13)

Now, it is true that afterward the Hebraist warns that his readers not do various things so that they will not be like Esau, who gave up his birthright for one meal and afterward was rejected the inheritance blessing and did not find a place of repentance even when seeking it out with tears. But the previous context makes clear that God, in His punishment, loves even more than the human father and seeks thereby to restore the errant sinner to the inheritance. (However, it also makes clear that so long as the person continues to do the sin there will be no inheritance, only punishment instead–even though the punishment has restoration as its aim.)