GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ will guide His people
Revelation 7:9-17 depicts the joyful redeemed of God from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages … 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” (verses 9-10).
There is no confusion of tongues here as at Babel. One voice, one cry echoes all around the throne. The redeemed are dressed in “white robes,” depicting not only their having been cleansed by Christ from their sins, but also that they were the pure in heart in the world and that they now see God as promised. They have palm branches in their hands, props to praise God for the victory of salvation.
We need to consider how different this blessed heavenly scene is from the scene in Revelation 6 when Christ returns in judgment to the earth. There, all the people on earth “hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling on the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’”
These two scenes in Revelation, one of rejoicing over salvation, and the other of the wrath of God toward sinners, are instructions to be wise and seek Christ. It’s a terrible thing to die comfortless, but it is the greatest ground of joy to have your name written in heaven. Paul says in Galatians 1 that Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.”
Your sin will drive you away from God or make you run to Christ. Salvation is found in no other name but Christ. Unbelief is an unreasonable sin because it rejects all the mercies and benefits God offers in Christ to deliver us out of misery and death. It leaves you condemned by the law to the wrath of God. There is a way that seems right to man but the end is death.
In Revelation 7:14 we read that the people in white robes are “the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Everyone in this world has tribulation. Who hasn’t known afflictions and troubles? The tribulation in our passage, though, refers to tribulation in the life of faith: the opposition a believer faces in living faithfully.
Such tribulation can be persecution from those who hate the gospel of Christ. It can be suffering in other ways: temptation, allurements from the world, deceptive teaching, and other things. What they have in common is they would drag you away from Christ. Those with white robes no doubt had many stumbles and confusions in their walk of faith, but they endured faithfully to the end. This must be our goal. Whatever our purposes in this life are, they must be subservient to the pursuit to inherit eternal life.
We learn in verse 14 what the foundation of our life of faith must be: “they washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” There is no true faith apart from this foundation. There are warnings in Scripture to those who profess faith but are living unfaithfully. These warning often point to neglecting to consider the sin you have been cleansed from. In other words, failures to value the death of Christ rightly and to remember you are His servant, not a servant of sin.
The unsound convert is all for salvation but not consecration to the Lord. We must love not only the reward of Christ but the service to Christ. So be willing to have Christ on any terms, and say with the apostle Paul or the prophet Isaiah, “Lord, what would you have me to do?”
Verses 15-17 of Revelation 7 show us the comfort and joy of heaven. The Lamb is in the midst of His people. Nothing can harm or hurt His people. They will “serve him day and night in his temple.” It doesn’t seem restful to serve without ceasing, but there is no curse, no hindrances or fatigue to weary us there. We will be completely free in our devotion to God.
There is no hunger or thirst in the presence of Christ (verse 16). No threat from any of the elements that cause suffering in this world. Christ will guide His people to “springs of living water,” meaning fresh discoveries of His love. So let us serve Christ with our days here. He is the King of Kings and able to reward His servants. Your devotion to Him is not in vain.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.