13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 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.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Where is your hope? For many Christians, especially we who live in the west, our hope is not in the right place. Is your hope in the government of the US? Is your hope in your ability to financially plan for the future? Is your hope in your health? Is your hope in entertainment? Is your hope in your children and their success?
The book of revelation refers to the time in which we live as a time of tribulation (note that John calls himself our partner in tribulation in1:9). And while it may in fact point to a season of intense hardship to come, nothing about this book indicates that we live free from tribulation, free from pressure, free from pain in any age before Christ returns. In chapter 6, with the opening of the seals, we saw a set of hardships that, while terrible, have marked the history of the church from Jesus’ day until now without much of a break.
Chapter 7 then uses a fascinating technique to give us hope. The chapter opens with the sealing, the preservation, of the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel. But something is odd about the list—it is not an accurate tribal list as it leaves out Dan and includes Joseph (v. 8) and Manasseh (v. 6.) though Manasseh is a subset of Joseph. John hears of this sealing of the tribes of Israel, but when he looks he sees a greater reality. John looks and sees a countless multitude from all nations, not merely from physical Israel. John sees that Israel here is the multitude of the saved of all ages regardless of their ethnicity.
Then one of the elders asks John just who this group is, this great multitude of people worshipping God in white robes. And we learn some beautiful things. These are the saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb. And they have a future, a hope, that is far greater than any hope anyone has ever imagined.
In verse 15, the saved are before the throne of God and serve him in his temple. As we watch Revelation unfold, we will find that the temple of God is going to be the whole world made new by the Lord. In Genesis, Eden possessed many features of a temple. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple actually were smaller temples, walled off places designed to keep sinful humanity out of the presence of the Lord. But in Revelation, God lifts the curse, completes his holy plan, and brings all of his children into his holy presence to glorify his name forever.
The saved serving God will be sheltered by him (v. 15) and will have his protection from the hardships of this fallen world. There will be no harmful hunger or thirst. The people of God will need no shelter from the elements (v. 16).
In verse 17, we see that the saved will be led by the Lamb, provided for as by the Good Shepherd, brought to springs of living water, and comforted. What a glorious thing to see that the Lord himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. God will comfort us and grant us joy that outweighs any pain, any hardship, any hurt we have ever experienced.
Our hope, believers, is in the victory of Christ. Our hope is not in American ingenuity. Our hope is not in medical breakthroughs. Our hope is not in the joy of a victorious sports franchise. Neither is our hope in having enough money to take that dream vacation, build that dream home, or buy that dream automobile. Our hope is not in preserving the environment or cleaning up the Internet. Our hope is, it must be, in the promise of the Lord of this kingdom to come. Our hope is in coming to Christ, finding forgiveness in his blood, being granted his imputed righteousness, and living forever as priests in his temple.