Monday, August 17, 2015, 7:59 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Keeps Me Singing.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 7:9-17 (NASB).
Our Salvation (vv. 9-12)
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation 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.”
John, the writer of Revelation, was given a series of visions from the Lord concerning the things which were present (existing then and now) and which were soon to take place at some point in the future. Jesus said to him, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (Rev. 1:19). John was shown these things nearly 2000 years ago, and yet many of these things have not yet taken place. As well, the visions were not necessarily given in the chronological order in which they were/are to take place. So, when a passage begins by saying, “After these things,” or “After this,” it is not necessarily meaning that the events are chronological, but that this is the order in which John was given the visions. So, we will not attempt to include the previous verses in this writing, but will look strictly at what is being expressed here in these specific verses.
A great multitude of people from every tribe, nation, peoples and languages were standing before the throne of God and before Jesus Christ, the Lamb, who was slain for our sins. They were clothed in white robes, which are symbolic of purity and righteousness. Isaiah prophesied concerning all nations streaming to Jesus Christ in the last days (Is. 2:1-5). These are all those who have had their sins washed in the blood of the Lamb, and who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord of their lives. These are those who have been crucified with Christ to sin and have been resurrected with Christ to new lives in Christ, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). These are those who want to be taught by the Lord so that they may walk (conduct their lives) in his ways; in his paths. They are those who walk no longer according to the flesh, with its sinful passions and desires, but who conduct their lives in agreement with the Spirit.
I believe this multitude presently consists of both those who are followers of Jesus Christ who are still living, and those who have already died in Jesus, and are literally standing before the throne of God along with the angels, the elders and the four living creatures. Although those of us who are followers of Jesus, and who still live on this earth, may not be physically in God’s holy presence, we stand (remain, continue, persist, and hold fast) in God’s presence by remaining in Christ and in his Word, and by holding fast to our faith, and by abiding (living) daily in his presence through prayer, through the reading of his Word, and through listening to what the Lord says and by doing what he instructs us to do. We proclaim the praises of him who has given us such a great salvation by which we might be set free from slavery to sin, be free to walk in Christ’s righteousness, be free from eternal punishment, and so we can have everlasting life with God both now and forevermore.
In White Robes (vv. 13-17)
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The question was asked as to who these are who are clothed in white robes. The response was that these are ones who come (or who are coming) out of the great tribulation. The verb is present tense. So, the sense here is not of ones who came (past tense) or of those who will come (future tense) but of those presently (then and now) coming out of the great tribulation, which would also include those past who already came, those present, and those future who will come out of great tribulation. These who come (who are coming) out of the great tribulation are also those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. These are those who have died with Christ to sin and who have been regenerated of the Spirit of God in new birth unto a living hope.
Although I understand that what John was seeing was largely in the future, Jesus was also showing him what was present, and in some cases there seemed to be a blending of present and future together. I also understand that the Great Tribulation appears to be a specific period of time which, if taken literally, would be right at the very end of time before Jesus returns for his bride, and yet when Jesus was on the earth he told his followers that they would be treated just like he was treated, i.e. that they would be hated, persecuted, abandoned, falsely accused, falsely arrested, beaten, imprisoned and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ and for their testimonies for him and for his gospel of salvation. Many followers of Jesus throughout history (over the past 2,000 years) have gone through severe persecution for their faith in Jesus, and many have been killed, too. And, we are presently seeing an increase in the persecution and murdering of Christians worldwide.
The time of great tribulation (trouble, suffering) yet to come will be unequaled to any time previously, and yet people on the earth throughout history have had many seasons of extreme suffering, trouble, hardship and distress, such as times of economic collapse, famine, pestilence, disease, plagues, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, etc., as well as many Christians have faced severe persecution. These times of such difficulty and hardship come to test our faith, as do these times when we suffer for our faith and testimonies for Jesus Christ, yet we are to remain faithful to the end, and not give up, and not give in to the enemy of our souls. Yet, we don’t have to endure in our own strength, for certainly human flesh is weak, but we have the strength and power of the Lord within us to give us all we need to endure and to be faithful to our Lord until the end.
They Serve Him
For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
There is a sense here in which this can be applied only to those who have died in Jesus and are now with God in glory and/or to those only who will die in Jesus yet in the future. Yet, I also see these as those still living on the earth who are followers of Christ, who are coming out of great tribulation for their faith and testimonies for Jesus and for his gospel of salvation. We who trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, who are still on this earth, who do not soil our garments, who do not compromise with this sinful world, and who do not bow to the gods of men to worship them, but who follow our Lord Jesus in surrender and in obedience to his commands, though not in sinless perfection necessarily, are before the throne of God, and are serving him day and night in His temple, his body, which is our individual lives and the life of the church collectively. We are his servants to do whatever it is he has called us to be and to do. We listen to our Lord, and we follow him.
And, our Lord will spread his hand of spiritual protection over us, in that he will preserve us, and he will give us a place of refuge in him; a shelter in times of storm. He does not necessarily protect us from temptation or tribulation, for his word teaches that we are destined for hardship, persecutions, etc., and that through difficult times he matures, strengthens and encourages us; we learn perseverance and steadfastness of faith; we learn to rely not on ourselves but on God; and when we are comforted, we can comfort others with the comfort we have received. Yet, he will keep us, strengthen us, encourage us, teach, lead and guide us, and comfort us during these difficult times, and he will provide a way out from underneath the weight of these difficulties so that we can stand up under them and not cave in, give up or give in to our enemy.
Our Lord Jesus will provide us with all that we need to endure, to persevere, and to remain faithful to him to the end. He is our all-sufficiency for all that we need to keep going. He will lead and guide us to the source of life always, and away from all that is sinful and is contrary to living holy lives pleasing to him. As well, he will bring much comfort and peace to our hearts during times of sorrow and distress, and he will help us through all difficulties to keep praising his name, to keep trusting in him, and to keep walking in his ways and according to his truth. And, one day he will take us home to be with him forever, where truly we will no longer suffer, and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And, we will worship and praise his name and serve him forever and ever.
He Keeps Me Singing / Luther B. Bridgers
There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,”
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.
Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ‘neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face –
That is why I shout and sing.
Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep
See His foot-prints all the way.
Soon He’s coming back to welcome me
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to world’s unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus –
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.