(Revelation 7:13-14) 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they? 14 And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Who are those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb? The uncomplicated answer is: they are those who trust Jesus in spite of trials, persecution and tribulation. Note the emphasis is on the blood of the Lamb, that cleansed them, not tribulation.
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I woke up in the middle of the night recently, burdened to pray for the faithful who are being persecuted for their faith right now, in this very moment. Lord, give them peace beyond understanding. There are tens of thousands of believers in third world countries who are imprisoned or being slaughtered even as they gather to worship. Even now, in America, being Christian is rapidly becoming open for scorn and mockery. How long before it will actually be dangerous to profess Jesus as Savior here? Did you ever think you’d live to see the day in America when just gathering to have Bible study in your own home would be against the law? But this is happening more and more, and it portends to get worse.
Today there are an estimated 70,000 proclaimed Christians in concentration camps in just North Korea alone, who are starved and worked to death because they have refused to renounce Christ and bow down to and worship the dictator. If these are not counted worthy to be raptured “before” tribulation, then I don’t know who could be. Certainly not soft American Christians who have homes, food and luxurious multimillion dollar mega churches to sit in comfy seats every Sunday, singing passionately, tears streaming down, hands raised, earnestly devoted to the doctrine of being changed in a twinkling, (before it gets really bad, you know).
Can you see the profound disparity in these two concurrent scenarios? How do you suppose God views this contrast between those currently suffering for their steadfast faith and those who believe they won’t have to?
The world has seen and experienced ongoing tribulation as defined by war, famine, pestilence, plague, holocaust, natural disasters, and the rise and fall of ruling tyrants. The world has seen economic collapse and subsequent depression and the non-believers just dig in and blame and curse God for it all. They repent not.
(Revelation 9:20) And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk: (9:21) and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
This seems to be the normal human condition since Adam’s fall from grace. It also seems to be a theme growing into a consensus of the majority nowadays, alternately denying the existence of the Sovereign Creator, and cursing and blaming Him for all the tribulations that mankind suffers. Here’s the non-believer’s logic: God does not exist. And if He did, He would be “good” and not vengeful because that is not good. Love is good. God is love, therefore God is good. If He existed. Which He doesn’t.
Perhaps we simply need to redefine the term Tribulation (with a capital T). It isn’t Christians persecuted for refusing to deny Christ, it’s... wait...let me think...
No, sorry, I can’t think of another definition as it applies to the faithful who follow Christ and obey His commandments. Christ is the point, after all, and therefore He is in the very center of anything to do with what happens to Christians, and, indeed, the rest of the world. Christ said that we would be persecuted for His name’s sake. He did not include the caveat “except for those in the end days who can’t imagine being tried and tested so they don’t have to.”
What I have been burdened to warn people about is not that we buy into pleasant bits of leaven, “God-is-love-therefore-everyone-gets-saved-in-the-end” and/or “the elect won’t have to stand up for Christ and be persecuted because they’ll get to watch the horrors from a safe cloud”. We are reaching the point of no return. God can and does harden hearts; He has done it before. I never fully understood the concept of the end of Grace until now. The end of grace is when we are left to our self-centered delusions and the door is shut in our faces for them.
(2 Timothy 2:12) if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;
We are mandated to practice abiding faith, even in the face of tribulation. Today, we are on the brink of the greatest test of our faith since the millions of Christians of the past who remained steadfast in spite of unthinkable tribulation, who were overcomers right up to the torturous end of their earthly lives. But many today believe that was then this is now. Tell that to the Christians slaughtered in their church in Nigeria on August 7, 2012. Say that to the survivors of the 300 who were slain in church in May, 2012. Perhaps the Christians in Nigeria, China, Russia and North Korea and multiple other places around the world don’t count?
For those with ears to hear and eyes to see: A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Once the leaven has done its job, though, the loaf is shaped and ready to be baked, sliced, slathered with butter and served up. What shape would you prefer to be in, that which is pleasing to Christ, standing in faith in spite of tribulation, or that which disappoints and grieves Him, steadfast to a doctrine, or a religious formula?
Hint: This is not the era to be grieving God.
(Jude 1:5-7) I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.