Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 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. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” – Revelation 7:13-17
It is interesting that the elders asked the author about the people in white robes. Perhaps it was a rhetorical question intended to provoke reflection in the author. The author answers in a way that suggests he is thinking what I am thinking, “sir you know…These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” So basically they are the ones who have forded the great river and are now on the other side with “the lamb” who has helped them cross over and made them clean with his own blood. This “robe washing” is unlike any earthly endeavor and includes a spiritual spin cycle for the soul.
These ones who have been washed clean by the lamb are 1) before the throne of God, 2) they serve Him day and night in his temple; and 3) they are sheltered by God’s presence. The first item on the list is pretty straightforward although for a Jewish listener potentially blasphemous that we could site in God’s presence. That is what the arrival of Jesus was all about; sitting in God’s presence, whether it was along the lake or beside a cross He was there – Emmanuel – God with us.
The second part, about serving Him day and night, riled the rebellious sheep in me a bit. I have always been a bit of a doer and it is hard for me to imagine focusing 100% of me on God and His needs. Perhaps that is the point. In reality His needs include loving us so it should not be so much to ask to love and serve Him in return. I don’t think this means a zombie-like devotion with no heart or soul. I am thinking this is more like the way we would lovingly serve and care for an aging parent who needs our help. Not that God needs that sort of help from us, but He needs us to be willing to provide it for Him nonetheless. Most of us would do this without question. The payoff for our devotion and service is protection.
The last item on the list is shelter from all those things that tend to separate and distract us from being able to be in God’s presence here on earth like hunger, thirst, the sun beating down on our shoulders, and scorching heat. All of these are part of our toil here on earth and things that can distract us from the larger spiritual world around us where God dwells. We will be cared for my the Lamb who is also a Shepherd. He will “lead them to springs of living water….and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Wow what a beautiful picture of the care that we can look forward to if we allow our robes to be washed clean by Jesus. The Spring of Living Water is Jesus and it is at this spring we can have true refreshment and get truly clean. So not only will be be made clean and new but the tears will be wiped from our eyes. I take this to mean that all the messiness that we worked through here on earth will be washing away with the Living Water and the tears. We will be new creations free of this spiritual baggage. We will be ready to be the sheep that are content to rest beside quiet waters and allow God to feed and restore our hungry and thirsty souls.
Prayer: God help us to prepare our souls and hearts to be with you with the knowledge that you will make all things new and cleanse all the messiness from our souls.