“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The great tribulation, the great affliction amidst this world of toil and trial, hardship and despair…
We look at this temporal existence that surrounds us as we abide in this corporeal existence and we are left with a deep longing in our souls as our spirit seems to be crushed. We know pain and suffering, we feel adversity and agony, we see sorrow and troubles, as we hear the cries of those who are left in nothing but their own anguish to weep and sigh. There is darkness and grief, torture and torment in the challenges of this world. Joy is fleeting and peace elusive as we are left to wonder why and what for? As the afflicted are left in the gloomy places, in their grim estate we are left with this deep yearning as the tears run down our cheeks, and all that seems to be left to us is to call out for the Lord in His mercy and His compassion.
We want to believe, we need to believe that there is a reason and purpose for the unrighteousness, and the wickedness, the sin and iniquity that would take men and women captive with no thought or consideration to who they are, with no belief that there is anything value or worth in their lives. We want to believe there is some sort of rationale that would lead to the persecution of the weak and the trafficking of the innocent, as their flesh is bought and sold, as their bodies are used and beaten, as if there was no dignity or integrity in their lives. We want to believe because it just doesn’t make sense, it all seems so stupid or foolish or vain.
There is, after all, no other way to explain the vanity of men who would subjugate and oppress, who would let such evil guide their way and path in this world, holding humanity cheap as they rob all the goodness from a person’s life, as if it was never even there to begin with, as if it held nothing of any intrinsic value to begin with. It is a abiding sense of hatred that directs their life, and, as much as we may not be able to understand it, it affects all of our lives in the most significant of ways. It touches our spirits and our souls in the most substantial of ways. After all we may not be in the same bondage, we may not be held amidst the same captivity, yet we know that Satan, he is at work in this world, seeking to chain all people to his wickedness and iniquity, to rob us all of our peace and comfort.
His tools may be different in the lives of people, it may vary from spirit to spirit, from soul to soul, but he is at work in this world like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, like a slithering serpent seeking to deceive us. Whether through illness or poverty, disease or destitution, plague or pestilence he is at work through all things to try and ensnare us in his traps. The difference is that through the persecution and the troubles of the captives and slaves, the hostages and the prisoners we see the full manifestation of his evil in this world.
If this was all that we were to know, if this was all that we were to see or to feel or to understand we would live in such grim estate, in such abiding darkness that would overtake and overshadow us amidst this temporal existence. Yet there is hope…
There is always hope…
In the words of the hymn today we heard the glorious promise of the Lord. It is the same triumphant promise that our text today proclaims in the words of the Evangelist John who saw that great vision of the final days play out before his very eyes. Whatever affliction may come, whatever tribulation we may know there is a God above who loves and cares for His people, a Heavenly Father who abides with them throughout all of the challenges and the trials that they face. He is a loving God who shows compassion and mercy to them all of the days of their lives through the kindness and the grace that He has for them. And through the washing flood of Jesus’ blood He reconciles the poor and the afflicted, the hurt and troubled to Him, that even though they may face persecution and hardship, toil and pain, anguish and agony they shall stand before the throne of light in perfect robes of white, their souls cleansed as they dwell forever in God’s love.
Through the love of the Lamb there is an inevitable triumph that comes as he declares victory over the roaring lion and the hungry wolf that would seek to devour us all. It is a triumph of the spirit and the soul and one that can never be taken away from us, regardless what the world may throw at us. Perhaps it is our fate to be despised and scorned amidst this life, perhaps it may be our fate to know the disdain and the hatred of wicked men who work their wicked ways. Yet in the love of God shall we forever know the liberty and the freedom that the Spirit brings as it works for the cause of justice in this world.
Therefore despair not in the misery of this world and do not give up hope, do not lose heart amidst the agony and the desolation that we see amidst this present age and this current day, for these things are fleeting and they shall soon fade from existence as God shows us the path on high to the glory of His kingdom. Feel not the hurt and the pain, the suffering and the sorrow even as it seems to wash through you, the captivity and the bondage of this world shall pass and there will come a day when all those who rejected the power that this worlds slavery tried to assert over them shall stand with the blessed legions of martyrs and saints whom the Lord has drawn now close to Him. Then shall we forever and always sing salvations wondrous and miraculous refrain.
Pray for the hostages and the prisoners, the captives and the slaves, pray for all who are held in any bondage throughout this present age, and know that, whether it is in this world or the next, God shall finally grant them the peace that they have so longed for and that has remained so allusive to them. He shall, through the power of His Spirit, draw them close to Him in the love that He has for them, holding them tight even as it seems as if they are washed away to drown in this world, in this generation, by the forces of hatred and iniquity. This is never the end of the story, this is never the end of God’s grace.
Keep your faith and hold on to that abiding trust through all things, in all things, according to the wondrous love and the blessed promises He has made, knowing that He is ever faithful and ever devoted to the cause of His people, constant as a guiding star to guide us through this world once more to our Heavenly home in safety and in Love. Never, dear brothers and sisters, lose hope in that, for He shall be there always and forever for you, showing His grace in the times of His children’s greatest of needs in wisdom and in truth.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.