KEY THOT: John saw the vision of the heavenly throne and a great multitude from every nation, tribes, peoples and languages standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb, They were clothed in white robes (symbolizing righteousness) with palm branches in their hands praising God with a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” (v.10). The angelic beings surrounding the twenty-four elders and the throne of God fell on their faces to worship God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (v.11-12). When one of the elders asked John who were these who were wearing white robe, John said he didn’t know. And the elder said they were those “coming out of the great tribulation,” a reference to the great time of persecution under the Anti-Christ. Apparently, they were martyred for their faith in Jesus during that period of worldwide persecution of believers known as the Great Tribulation. They are standing in the position closest to the throne and the Lamb: “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” (v.17). Persecution is the pathway to a greater intimacy and knowledge of God.
Paul speaks of this intimacy with Christ our Lamb as the “fellowship of suffering”: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11). In our culture of affluence, this idea of suffering seems quite incongruous with our pursuit of the “good life”. Yet, it is through suffering experienced in persecution because of righteousness’ sake, that believers attain to the positions of glory nearest to the throne of God. Preachers who promise believers a life of prosperity and ease are endangering God’s people and not preparing them for a life of impending persecution and even death as we enter the period of the Great Tribulation. Such preachers are telling their congregations that God is too kind to put them through such suffering, ignoring the fact that more Christians are being put to death for their faith in our century than all previous 20 centuries put together. The current situation in the Middle-East is just the most blatant example of this wide-spread persecution of believers that has been happening for many years.
When the days of persecution appear on our shore, we should always remember today’s text, that those who come out of the Great Tribulation enter into glory standing closest to the throne of God and that the Lamb himself will be our Shepherd: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (v.17).
Father God, we know the days are evil, especially as Your coming draws near. Grant us grace to endure to the end when persecution comes to our shore, that we might stand near Your throne and in the presence of the Lamb. Amen.