S (Scripture): Revelation 7:9 After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 10 They were shouting out in a loud voice,
“Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These dressed in long white robes – who are they and where have they come from?” 14 So I said to him, “My lord, you know the answer.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them…”
O (Observation): A case of translation mix-ups. This crowd that is robed in white is not just a select few…but all who have died in the faith. The Church Triumphant. How so? Here is a quote from an ELCA professor (Walter F. Taylor, Jr.) from the preaching resource website WorkingPreacher.org, from April 25, 2010:
The NRSV, unfortunately, mistranslates the elder’s response from vv. 13 & 14. “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal,” should be translated as “these are they who are coming ….” The participle that means coming is present tense and refers to an ongoing action: those who are killed are still coming. Note that the church has not been “raptured” out (a non-biblical doctrine often foisted onto Revelation); the church suffers.
The martyrs, in one of John’s reversal of images, “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Any college freshman knows that washing something in blood (or red in general) does not turn something white. But here the blood of the Lamb purifies the martyrs and takes away their sin (see 1:5, 5:9, 12:11; Isaiah 1:18), and so their robes are white.
A (Application): So this shifts focus from “what will the end times be like?” To “what is happening today to those who are being persecuted?”
With the constant barrage of terrible news of shootings, massacres, suicide bombings, and hostage situations, we shift to hopelessness.
As a Lutheran Christian, I recognize the weeks leading up to Christmas as a time of pregnant waiting…for the celebration of the birth of Christ – God Incarnare (in the flesh). This fills me with hope, love, joy, and peace…even when most feel like closing borders and lashing out.
And with the image of the Church Triumphant gathered before the throne, I know that no matter what we face, we can be encouraged to know that we will be washed white with the blood of the Lamb and join the heavenly choir.
P (Prayer): Lord, help guide us through tough times and help us to recall the picture of what will be for all of us who gather around the throne, when we are united with those who have gone on in the faith before us. Amen.