Out of the Great Tribulation
Revelation 7:9-17 (ESV) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Though it grieves our flesh, one of the tasks the Lord has given us to is to suffer, experiencing trials and tribulations, and remain patient and faithful in the midst of suffering. This contradicts the popular misconception that becoming a Christian means that you’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise, and you will have your best life now. Rather listen to what Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus tells us of a particularly rich blessing when we suffer precisely because we are Christians. This is most clearly seen when we are scorned for confessing our faith, but it also includes the quiet witness shown by Christians as they suffer all the trials of this life and yet remain faithful. Though the world shouts at us, “God is dead. If He were real, and if He really loved you, then you wouldn’t suffer the way you do.” This is being reviled for the sake of Christ, because the world thinks that being a child of God means to have every blessing in this life, but we learn from the life of our Lord that being God’s child—being a saint—doesn’t mean cruising through life pain-free, but the opposite is the case: children of God suffer because their Lord suffered.
When St. John saw the saints in heaven, the elder told him, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” We are in the great tribulation right now. Our consciences plague us because of sin. Our bodies cry out for relief from pain and illness. Our spirits are broken by grief as we lose one loved one after another. Our souls cringe and whimper as they face the prospect of dying and facing God’s judgment. Those tribulations are real, and Satan wants to point us to them and convince us to renounce our Lord Jesus. But find strength in this: you have washed your robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb by being baptized, absolved, or fed the body and blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus is what turns away God’s wrath against your sin, and that eliminates from your future the eternal tribulation of hell.
In the meantime, as we live in the great tribulation of this miserable world, the Lord Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. Just as Jesus never wavered or gave up hope in His Father even on the cross, when He was dying for the sin of the world, so also the Lord Jesus gives His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him in order to strengthen their faith in the midst of trials and temptations. Jesus gives us His own body and blood as a certain pledge that He is 100% with us to protect us from the devil’s assaults. Jesus and the Spirit intercede to the Father on our behalf, uttering effective prayers that preserve you in the Christian faith even when attacked by sin, death, and hell.
Prayer: O Lord God, heavenly Father, we give You thanks that of Your great goodness and mercy Your only-begotten Son became incarnate to redeem us from sin and everlasting death. Enlighten our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may forever give You thanks for Your grace and be strengthened in all times of tribulation and temptation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.