“Underneath the Altar” is Underneath the Earth
Revelation 6:10, speaking of “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony which they held,” says, “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O sovereign Lord, holy and true, will You not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
In 6:9 we see that the souls are underneath the altar. This points to the sacrifices killed on the altar. When a sacrifice was killed on the altar, its blood flowed down to and under the bottom of the altar. The soul of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11).
That the soul of the martyred saints are under the altar indicates that, in the eyes of God, they have all been offered to God as sacrifices on the altar and that their blood, their life, was shed there.
Now their position is under the altar. In figure, the altar is in the outer court of the tabernacle and the temple, and the outer court signifies the earth. Hence, “underneath the altar” is underneath the earth, where the souls of the martyred saints are.
It is the paradise where the Lord Jesus went after His death (Luke 23:43). It is in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40), and should be the comfortable section of Hades, where Abraham is (Acts 2:27; Luke 16:22-26).
The Martyred Saints are not in Heaven
Today, the martyred saints are in paradise underneath the altar, that is, underneath the earth. It is altogether erroneous to say that these saints are in heaven.
The original Scofield Reference Bible has a note on Luke 16:23 that indicates that paradise was under the earth before Christ’s resurrection, but that by and with Christ’s resurrection it was transferred from under the earth to the third heaven.
However, on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Lord’s resurrection, Peter said, “David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). Even at the time of the day of Pentecost, David was still not in heaven.
In his book, Firstfruits and Harvest, on page 54, G. H. Lang, a late teacher among the Brethren, says that “the Scripture nowhere declares” that after Christ’s ascension paradise was transferred from under the earth to the third heaven, “but is wholly against it.”
He also pointed out the verse in Acts 2 where Peter said that David was not in heaven. I mention this that we might realize that all the martyred saints are still in paradise underneath the altar.
The Strongest Proof that Paradise is in Hades
Many Christians Do not Know that Paradise is in Hades. The strongest proof that paradise is in Hades is the Lord’s word to the saved thief in Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Acts 2:27, 31 reveal that after the Lord Jesus died He went to Hades. Matt. 12:40 indicates that Hades is in “the heart of the earth” where the Lord Jesus went for three days and nights after His death.
In Hades there is a pleasant section likened to Abraham’s bosom where Lazarus went (Luke 16:23). This is not the paradise in the heavens, but the paradise in Hades.
Paul Received a Full Vision of the Entire Universe (2 Cor. 12:2-4)
Using 2 Cor. 12:2-4, some have argued that when Paul was “caught away into paradise” he was “caught away to the third heaven.”
But 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 does not prove that paradise is in the third heaven; rather, it proves the opposite. The word “and” at the beginning of verse 3 proves that Paul’s being “caught away to the third heaven” and his being “caught away into paradise” mentioned in verses 3 and 4 are two different things.
The Greek word rendered caught up in verses 2 and 4 (KJV) may be translated caught away. On the one hand, Paul was living on earth, but on the other hand, he was “caught away” to the heavens and into “the paradise.”
In this way, Paul received a full vision of the entire universe. As far as mankind is concerned, the universe is of three sections: the heavens, the earth, and under the earth (cf. Phil. 2:10). Paul came to know the things on earth, the things in heaven, and the things in paradise. He had the greatest revelation of the universe as it relates to man.
Without Body Soul is Naked
When the saved saints die, they all become naked, no longer having a body. For a human being not to have a body means that he is naked, not in a normal condition. No one can be in the presence of God in the third heavens in this naked, abnormal condition.
Hence, the dead saints must be kept in a pleasant place until the time of their resurrection, when God will clothe them with a resurrected body and they will be a complete person in a normal condition.
Being With Christ (as in Phil. 1:23) is a Relative Matter
Some may wonder about Phil. 1:23, where Paul said that he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ.” Paul seemed to be saying, “If I die, I will be with Christ.” To be with Christ is not an absolute matter; it is a relative one. Even now, we are with Christ. Wherever we are, we are with Him.
Of course, while we are in this physical body, we are not as close to Christ as we are when we die, pass out of this world, and enter into another realm. But this does not mean when the believers die they are taken to the heavens. That will not occur until the day of resurrection and rapture.
The Dead Saints Shall be Caught up to the Air to Meet with Christ
Others may use 1 Thes. 4 to argue that the dead saints are with Christ in heaven. They say that when Christ comes back, He will bring the dead believers with Him, and that this proves that they must be with Him now in heaven.
But read this chapter carefully. It says that “the dead in Christ shall rise first” and that those who “are living, who remain, shall be caught up at the same time together with them in clouds” (1 Thes. 4:16-17). According to 1 Thessalonians 4, the dead saints will be resurrected and, along with the living ones, will be caught up to the air to meet with Christ.
We should read the Bible carefully and not follow today’s traditional, superficial teachings. We must be clear that the saved saints are not in the heavens, but in a pleasant place which the Bible calls paradise, the place the Lord Jesus visited after He died.