Revelation 7:9-14 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. . . . These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.
The Bible predicts a time of great tribulation before the return of Christ. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations (Daniel 12:1), wrote Daniel. And there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world (Matthew 24:21), said Jesus. The whole world will go through a time of greater suffering than it has ever known. But this is nothing new to the church.
Fifteen university students were arrested for studying the Bible in a place where Christianity is opposed. They were sent to a prison camp and forced to live in a shipping container. One came down with malaria, but was denied medical treatment, and died. In fact, stories like this abound. Believers have often suffered tribulation, but it will come on the whole world at the end of the age.
Revelation 7:14b [T]hey have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The blood of Jesus Christ is a miracle detergent that removes every stain, without leaving a trace. The terrible sins of murder, blasphemy and rape are nothing compared to the blood of Christ, even if we have done them a thousand times or more.
The wickedest murderers, who repent of their murders, are no longer murderers, but faithful Christians. The wickedest blasphemers, who repent of their blasphemies, are no longer blasphemers, but faithful Christians. The wickedest rapists, who repent of their rapes, are no longer rapists, but faithful Christians. [T]hey have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 8:7-12 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood . . . The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. . . . The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky. . . . The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark.
Trumpets were used to warn of approaching danger (Joel 2:1-2), and John saw seven angels, with seven trumpets, announcing seven disasters that were coming on the world. This was going to be bad.
Whenever disaster strikes, people ask, Why did God allow this happen? The assumption is that people are good, and if God does not take care of us, he is not doing his job. But according to God’s word, every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 8:21), and disaster is God’s way of calling us to repent. [U]nless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:3), said Jesus.
Revelation 9:1-6 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. . . . And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions . . . . . During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
The Abyss is something like a bottomless pit where demons are kept. It is not an imaginary place, but a place of real misery. When Jesus confronted a legion of demons, they begged [him] repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss (Luke 8:31). As soon as the angel opened the abyss, clouds of hellish creatures rained down on the earth.
The misery inflicted by the scorpion/locusts will be so great that people will long to die, but death will elude them. When life becomes unbearable many resort to suicide, but that will not always be possible. Imagine the misery of a man who tries to hang himself, only to find that his neck is too strong; or one who tries to overdose, only to become violently ill; or one who stabs himself, only to have his wound clot before he bleeds out. God is the giver of life and he can take it away. But he can also make us live as long as he wants. Everyone in hell wants to die, but cannot die, because God keeps them alive.
Reflection and Review
How can Christians prepare for suffering?
How does suffering affect you spiritually?
Why does God allow suffering?