War Weary Vision
by Mary Alice McGinnis
This weekend, I am riding in the Pelotonia, a bicycling event that raises money for innovative cancer research. I have been training hard for the past several months, taking long weekend rides, and mixing in some strength training, and some challenging indoor cycling training rides. I am not going to lie; it is hard sometimes to stay motivated to prepare for the demanding long distance and intimidating hills I know I must face. When I am riding into a ten-mile-per-hour head wind, when it’s 90 degrees and 100% humidity, when my hands start to tingle, and my feet, legs, arms, and shoulder start to ache, when my backside hurts, it is a struggle not to give up.
So why do I do it? I think about all the people who, through no choice of their own, battle cancer. They struggle, they are often in excruciating pain, they are weary, and they want to quit. Keeping a vision of their fight close to mind inspires me. It prompts me to realize my relatively minor pains of training are well worth every step of the battle.
In today’s reading, God gives John such a vision. While exiled to the island of Patmos, God reveals to him the deadly battle that is taking place and will continue to escalate. It seems like evil is winning, injustice and corruption is getting the upper hand. Followers of Jesus are being imprisoned, scorned, persecuted, and even martyred for their faith.
Earlier in Revelation chapter 7, John sees this vision:
“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.” (Revelation 7:9)
Waving palm branches was a signal of triumphant VICTORY!
But the logical question was: “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” John’s response, “Sir, you know,” may be interpreted as, “I do not know. You tell me, Sir.”
First, where have these come from? They have come out of something. They have arisen, come forth and now publicly stand before all to see. What have they come out from?
"These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.”
Great means with great intensity and effort, events powerfully affecting the senses: violent, mighty, strong. Tribulations represent the afflictions of those hard pressed by siege and the calamities of war. They have come out from the most intense, horrific afflictions of war imaginable. A war against God, against heaven, and against all who follow Him. These are all those who have fought the good fight, those who have kept the faith - despite opposition, hardship, persecution, and even martyrdom.
We need to be reminded, my friends, that we are in the throes of a fierce battle, an all-out war. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Why are these who have come out of this great tribulation in white robes? The word “white” in the Greek is more than just a color. It brings with it the connotation of brilliance, radiance, a shining blinding light.
Can you picture that? Remember how Jesus led Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration? Mark 9:3 says: “There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”
How did these become as radiant as the Messiah Himself?
They could not claim this radiant, brilliantly bright victory on their own. Not because they were so perfect, righteous or even faithful.
“They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Jesus purified them in way that only He could, by going into the battle and shedding His blood to wash them clean.
Jesus went into the very depths of hell: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
The battles we face can feel long and tiring. We might feel like all is lost, like we might as well give up, like we are completely undone. May we be encouraged by the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. That one day, He will make all things right. And when we are called to stand before God’s throne, we too will shine with the radiant robe of righteousness won for us when Jesus defeated Satan on the cross.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for reminding me that the battle is real, but You have WON the WAR.
You sit on the throne and will shelter us with Your presence. For You, Lamb of God, are at the center of the throne. You will be our shepherd. You will lead us to springs of living water. And You, Precious Savior, will wipe away every tear from our eyes.