Revelation 6.9. "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held",
This text is often quoted in support of "souls" surviving death and being in heaven. When we consider the symbolism and imagery which is used in the book of Revelation and see a text like this offered to try and prove this doctrine it reveals the real poverty of the argument. It is evident that what John is receiving here is a vision of those who had suffered martyrdom and they are seen as being in heaven calling out for God to avenge them.
If this is indeed reality what sort of place must heaven be? Is there a place where multitudes of martyrs are crying and pleading for the vengeance of God to fall on their murderers? Of course not! Just as Abel's blood cried unto God from the ground and he being dead still speaks, so this, in vision form, pictures those dead martyrs looking to God to avenge their blood. Heaven is not a place of crying, pleading and unrest. The verses following are to assure us that God has missed nothing and that in His own time justice will be meted out.
It should be pointed out that nowhere in the narrative of Revelation 5 is it suggested that the altar mentioned is in heaven, that is only surmised. We do meet these martyrs again in Revelation 20.4 where we are plainly told that they are part of the "first resurrection", then it is recorded that "They lived and reigned with Christ one thousand years". It stands to reason that if they are said to be alive after resurrection then they could not have been alive before it had taken place. To emphasize that point we are told in verse 5 regarding those who were not part of that "first resurrection" that the "rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished". So there we have it, those who do not take part in this first resurrection are said not to live until the thousand years are finished and it is not until after the first resurrection that these dead martyrs are brought to life, so we can rest assured they were not alive in the vision of Revelation 5.
How interesting also to note that we are told many times, souls are invisible, and then when it suits the argument, they are quite easily seen. Souls are simply persons or beings or lives, this is easily proved by looking at the different ways the word "nephesh Heb." and the word "psuche Gk." are translated into the English. We leave this for the research of all interested students. This text does not prove that the dead are alive in heaven.