Glory! Glory!Revelation 7:1-17Theme: Eternity.In this week’s lessons, Dr. Philip Ryken teaches us about our future adornment, employment, and enjoyment.
LessonScholars have offered various interpretations of this great tribulation. Some think this refers to martyrdom. I think this seems unlikely because there’s nothing in the passage specifically to indicate that the people in white robes were martyrs. Ordinarily, in other places in the Book of Revelation, when John refers to martyrs he comes right out and explains that they were put to death because of their faith. Others think that the tribulation refers to a special period of persecution in the end times – what Revelation elsewhere calls the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world. This interpretation has much to commend it, for the sufferings of these saints are described as the great tribulation. It suggests some intense period of persecution, a tribulation to end all tribulations that will come immediately prior to the return of Christ.
One difficulty with that interpretation however is that everything said about the people in white robes is actually true of every Christian. We have all been saved by God’s grace; we have all been cleansed by Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We must all enter glory through suffering. And so it seems best, therefore, to understand these verses as a description of God’s whole new humanity. And even if these verses refer more specifically to the martyrs or to the church of the last days, surely they at least apply to all Christians, because one day we will all stand before the throne of God’s glory. There we will be gathered and glorified. If you believe the message of salvation, then one day you will take your place among them. Your destiny is to stand before the throne and in front of the Lamb, wearing the robe and waving the palm.
Yet before we get too caught up in the glories of heaven, the Bible takes this one last backward glance at the trials of earth. Remember that the pattern of salvation is through suffering into glory. As it was for Christ, so it is for the Christian: tribulation before glorification, the cross before the crown. If we wish to enjoy the ecstasies of heaven, we must endure the agonies of earth: loss, and grief, and persecution in many cases, and finally, death. As the Scripture says, we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. That’s not meant to discourage us, but to give us hope and comfort. For when we suffer grief in all kinds of trials, as we surely must, it helps to know that there is no way to enter glory except by way of suffering. The tribulation is only for a while, but the joy is forever, and we do well to consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
This glory will be revealed in us at the Second Coming, at the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. On that great day, everyone who is united to the risen Christ by faith will become as glorious as Christ himself. Paul’s letter to the Colossians says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Just as Christ was made glorious by his resurrection, so also we will be made glorious in our resurrection. Our souls and our bodies will be completely, instantaneously transformed into the glorious image of the risen Christ.
The proper term for this is glorification. It is the climactic event in salvation. It’s the last link in that golden chain that stretches from election into eternity. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. …And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30). And to be glorified is to be raised with all God’s people in a perfect, immortal, eternal, and imperishable body of dazzling splendor.
What is the destiny of every Christian?
What is the only way to enter into glory?
What does it mean to be glorified?
ReflectionDo you look down on people who do not have the same skin color you have, or do not speak the same language you speak? Remember that the multitude of which you will be a part for eternity is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and beautiful.