Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, singing,
“We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty,
who are and who were,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath has come,
and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants, the prophets
and saints and all who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. (New Revised Standard Version)
Late in his life, as the old Apostle John lived in exile, he experienced a grand vision. It is what we today refer to as The Book of Revelation, or The Apocalypse of John.
At the turn of the first century, Christ’s Church was facing a great deal of difficulty and hardship. Christians were the minority. Believers in Jesus were looked at with suspicion. Followers of Christ were often misunderstood and persecuted because of false information.
In short, all of the myriad sufferings and persecutions that Jewish people currently face and have faced for millennia were true of the early believers in Jesus.
Therefore, the purpose of John’s vision was not to give slick preachers a reason to craft elaborate prophecy charts about what’s going to happen in the future. Instead, God was concerned for the current welfare of his people. The vision was meant to bring encouragement.
The message to John, passed onto the suffering church, was that this present hard situation will not always be this way. Danger, adversity, and hardship will not last forever. There is a day coming when God’s judgment and benevolent reign will truly rule in all of its glorious fullness.
Our prayers will be answered, the ones we have lifted to God for centuries: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Lord did not want his beloved children to succumb to discouragement and lose heart. So, the vision from John assured them that all will be made right. Jesus is Lord, and his good rule will have the day.
Yes, we currently live in a world profoundly touched by the presence and power of sin. And because of that sad reality, we feel all kinds of various pain. We have no choice but to endure the hardships of national wars, bodily diseases, lack of resources, economic woes, mental disorders, emotional distress, and spiritual warfare.
It is possible to observe, as well as experience, all the crud of this sinful world and fall into despair. If or when that happens, we give-in to unhealthy ways of coping with the adverse circumstances around us.
Graciously, we have been given a glimpse into how all of history will shake-out in the end. That brief pulling back of the curtain is meant to bring us needed encouragement, steadfast hope, and patient endurance.
There is coming a day when expressions of grief and lament will give way to praise and gratitude to God. And that incredible praise will explode with all believers, past and present, along with all creation, proclaiming together that the Lord God is all-powerful.
The kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One. And he will rule forever and ever.
Some might protest that Christians have been harping on this return of Jesus for two millennia and he still isn’t here. We must not misinterpret God’s inaction as uncaring or that God is non-existent. Because it is really patient grace.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9, NIV)
Our present sufferings must also not be misinterpreted, as if God hates us or is just plain mean. For the Christian, suffering is transformed into solidarity with Jesus Christ.
My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13, GNT)
All of our collective experiences are meant not for harm, but for good so that we might realize spiritual growth and maturity.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, NIV)
Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you caused our earthly pain to be sacred and have meaning. Through your example of humble obedience, you opened the way for us to walk through our own hard circumstances with grace and submission.
Be near me in my time of weakness and pain. Sustain me by your grace, so that my strength and courage may not fail. Heal me according to you will. Help me always to believe that what happens to me in this present life is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God.
As Jesus cried out on the cross, I cry out to you in pain, O God my Creator. Do not forsake me. Grant me relief from this suffering and preserve me in peace; through Jesus Christ my Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.