Have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff or a canyon and peered over? One step and you would fall into the abyss. You have nowhere else to go.
That’s how Revelation chapter 6 leaves us. The cosmic battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world has come to a climactic point. We find ourselves at the edge of the abyss. And the question is asked, “Who is able to stand” the judgment of God and the wrath of the Lamb? (6:17)
As we look ahead to an uncertain future, Revelation 7 provides the answer to our anxieties. In the conflict that takes place between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world that stand in opposition to Him, only those who have the seal of the living God (7:2) will be able to stand God’s judgment and the Lamb’s wrath. We are secure. But make no mistake -- we are not safe! Don’t confuse security and safety. They are not the same. Whenever the kingdom of God collides with the kingdoms of the world that are in rebellion against Him, God’s people suffer crushing pressure (the meaning of the term “tribulation” in verse 14).[i]
For those undergoing persecution for their faith and witness for Christ, chapter 7 is the most comforting of all of the visions recorded in Revelation. While this book does provide warning to the spiritually complacent, above all it provides strength to those reeling under the pressure of tribulation.
Many times over the years that I have been involved with The Voice of the Martyrs, I have had individuals express the concern that they were not sure that they would have the strength to endure persecution like those they read about in our newsletter. Revelation 7 is for such people! Because we are His possession, washed and robed in the blood of the Lamb, He has provided all that we will ever need to stand firm--to successfully come through the time of great tribulation (7:14).
This is happening all over the world today, just as it was happening to those who first read the verses of Revelation in A.D. 96. By God’s grace, we are “coming out” (verse 14) of this great pressure that comes upon all who serve as God’s witnesses in an antagonistic world. As exiles in a hostile land, we are promised a new and better homeland (verses 15-17). Similar promises were made centuries before to those who would return from exile in Babylon (Isaiah 49:10):
They shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
As one author has noted:
In Revelation, Christians are exiled to another Babylon, but they are promised freedom from captivity and safe passage to a new promised land by following the Lamb (cf. 18:4). The Lamb will shepherd them and lead them to springs of water of life (cf. Rev. 21:6; John 4:14; 7:37-39) and “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:17; cf. 21:4). As a parent wipes away a child's tears, God will wipe away the tears of pain and suffering endured during the ordeal. The tenderness and comfort of 7:16-17 contrast with the chaotic events of chapter 6:31. The dismal outlook in chapter 6 is balanced in chapter 7 by the imagery of a tender and compassionate God who will set the world right side up. [ii]
With such promises, our calling as followers of the Lamb, as those who are sealed and will stand before the throne (7:4,9), is to not run away from the suffering that will inevitably come when the kingdoms collide. We must not give up nor give in but, instead, firm in the grace of God, acknowledging that “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:10)
be to our God forever and ever!
[i][i] Darrell W. Johnson. Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation. Regent College Publishing, 2004: 181.
[ii] James L. Resseguie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary. Baker, 2009: 140.