Who Are These?
By Rev. Alex Stevenson
It was just another Sunday and John, a first century Christian, was at church. He worshiped God every Lord’s day because that is what Christians do on Sundays. But that is where the ordinariness of his worship ends. You see John was not in a church building on this Sunday. He was in prison “on account of the Gospel.” His crime against the Roman government was being a Christian.
I imagine this time of worship was done in secret. After all being a Christian was a crime. I also imagine that it may have been before dawn. Because once dawn broke the taskmasters would have come for the prisoners to put them to work in the mines on the Island of Patmos. They didn’t care that is was Sunday. To the Roman guards it was just another day to make the prisoners work.
The Romans had gone to a lot of trouble to keep John and others from worshipping Christ. John was one of the lucky ones. Others had been fed to lions, or set ablaze to light the games. Yet John continued to worship even in jail. His religion had cost him his freedom and others their lives. Yet he faithfully devoted himself to his Savior.
In the midst of John’s dungeon, as he faithfully prayed, something happened. It was a marvelous miraculous occurrence. God reached down and lifted John out of his Hell of Earth to give him a glimpse of Heaven. God hadn’t taken him up to set up permanent residence in Heaven. God just brought him to Heaven for a visit. So that John could see what God was doing and could tell the other Christians what he had been shown.
One of the things John saw was a great crowd of people from every nation and time. They were red, yellow, black and white. They were young and old, male and female. They were robed in white and were waving palm branches and singing. “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!”
At that the angels gathered around the golden thrones. And the heavenly elders who represent God’s people and the four living creatures who represent all God’s creatures fell on their faces before God. And they sang: “Blessing, glory, wisdom thanksgiving be unto God, be unto God. Honor power might and glory, be unto God forever and forever.”
Then one of the elders turned to John and said, “Who are these clothed in white robes and where did they come from?” How was John to know who these people were and where they came from? So John turned the question back to the elder and said “Sir you know. Who are these?” The elder replied, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them pure in the blood of the lamb.”(Rev. 7:14) These were the Christians, and Jews before them, who had been faithful to God in times of trouble.
I imagine that as John looked at the faces for those in that heavenly choir he could recognize a few faces. The faces of brothers and sisters who had given their lives in service to God. The ones he had known who had been fed to lions and killed by gladiators because of the Gospel. And those who had died in the salt mines of Patmos where John was.
God wasn’t showing John just any heavenly choir that Sunday. God was revealing to John his spiritual destiny. After all John had washed his robe in the blood of the lamb. He had given his life to Christ. And John was going through a time of tribulation. So this would be his reward. He would stand in heaven one day waving a palm branch a symbol of victory. And he would be dressed in a heavenly white robe instead of the drab prison uniform he now wore. And he would no longer hunger or thirst or faint in the heat of the sun. And God would wipe every tear from his eye. But John’s reward was not just in the by and by. This vision gave John hope in the here and now. Hope to face the days for tribulations to come. Strength to see him through all that would happen to him. And John’s testimony of all he saw has been an inspiration to Christians ever since.
Today is just another Sunday. And like John we are worshiping God today because that is what Christians do on Sundays. But the similarity doesn’t end there. It is true that none of us fears being imprisoned of killed because of our religion today. But the world is still trying to keep us from glorifying God on the Lord’s Day. The world doesn’t threaten us with death instead it entices us. “There are so many other things you could do on Sunday morning.” “Think of the work you could get done.” And, “wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in just once.” That is just the beginning. The world is always trying to keep us from glorifying God in our daily lives. It creates things for us to do that take away from our times of prayer and devotion. It creates loyalties and values that conflict with our loyalty to Christ. Yet we have faithfully set aside the time and placed value on worshipping God.
And what has God done. He had temporarily lifted us above the evil of the world around us. He has shown us a choir of gloriously robed saints praising God. And who are these Saints in glorious robes. They are the ones who have believed in Jesus and been true to him in times of trouble. And in my mind’s eye I can clearly see John standing with the Baritones praising God.
Might we be in that choir some day? Have you ever been through times of trouble? If you have ever been through times of trouble raise your hand. That is the first criteria for joining this choir. The second criteria is: have you washed your robe in the blood of the lamb. I won’t ask for a show of hands. Have you put your trust in God and God’s Son Jesus. If you answered yes then this is your destiny. To be gloriously robed in a heavenly choir. To have God wipe every tear from your eye. That is not just a promise for the by and by, it is a reality for the here and now. When we faithfully trust in Christ through times of trouble God will reward us in this life. He will give us hope and peace. God will give us strength to life through troubles times. Then, when we die, we will join that heavenly choir of saints doing what we Christians do best: Worshiping God.
Copyright 2008 Alex Stevenson. Used by permission.