Read Revelation 7
Human history has recorded some glorious moments of achievement and heroism accomplished by men and women who gave their lives to the betterment of the earth and humanity. Our history also contains plenty of dark spots where evil twisted people seem to have been driven by some evil force to commit genocide by attempting to eradicate a certain group of people from the face of the earth.
The rationale and targets of these attempted genocides have typically been racially or religiously motivated. Some historians and secular social scientists have attempted to blame religion for not only these travesties, but also many of the wars over territory in which countless thousands have died. While it is true that much human suffering has been inflicted by people claiming to be doing it in the name of a religion, there is equal if not more suffering that has come at the hands of those attempting to eradicate any kind of religion.
One group of people who have consistently been persecuted for the last two thousand years of so has been those who claim to follow Jesus Christ. The number of people who have given up their lives rather than deny their allegiance to Christ has apparently actually been rising in the last hundred years. If the Apostle John’s vision in today’s reading is accurate, I would expect that number to continue to rise.
In today’s chapter John describes a vast multitude of people standing before the throne of God in white robes.
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. (v. 13-14)
Apparently these are the people who are killed during a period of seven years that John calls “the great tribulation”. In later chapters John will describe this period of seven years in greater detail. This will apparently be a particularly difficult time for those who choose to remain faithful as followers of Jesus, as those who are rebellion against God seek to eradicate God and all those who remain loyal to Him from the earth. (Spoiler alert) When we get to the end of the book of revelation we discover that God ultimately wins this battle, and those who remain loyal to Him even to the point of death will be rewarded accordingly.