[This is the most interesting explanation of trials and suffering that I have ever seen. I pray that you will all read this carefully and understand thoroughly. Thank you! The Shepherd's Disciple]
The Sure Hope - Revelation 7:14-17
This seems a hard saying, but I would have you know these trials are laid on us for the most wise and merciful purposes. We live in such a fair and pleasant world, we are so surrounded with so much that is smiling an gay, that if we were not often obliged to taste of sickness an trial or disappointments, we should forget our heavenly home, and pitch our tents over against this Sodom. Therefore it is that God's people pass through great tribulations; therefore it is they are often called upon to suffer the sting of affliction and anxiety, or weep over the grave of those whom they have loved as their own soul. It is their Father's hand which chastens them; it is thus He weans their affection from things below and fixes them on Himself; it is thus He trains them for eternity, and cuts the threads one by one which bind their wavering hearts to earth. No doubt such chastening is grievous for the time, but still it brings many a hidden grace to light, and cuts down many a secret seed of evil; and we shall see those who have suffered most shining among the brightest stars in the assembly of heaven. The purest gold is that which has been longest in the refiner's furnace. The brightest diamond is often that which has required the most grinding and polishing. But our light affliction endureth but for a moment, and it worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; the saints are men who have come out of great tribulation, they are never left to perish in it; the last night of weeping will soon be spent, the last wave of trouble will have rolled over us, and then we shall have a peace which passeth all understanding; we shall be at home for ever with the Lord.
I repeat, this seems at first sight a hard saying; and yet t is a true one. Count up the enemies which encompass the children of God, - the world with its unkindnesses or its snares and seductions, the flesh with its unceasing backwardness and indifference to the Lord's service, the devil with his arts and devices, - and see whether you could give a more correct picture of the saints' experience than may be found in the words, "these are they which came out of great tribulation." An unconverted man may not understand this, and a thoughtless man may not consider it; they neither know nor care about this spiritual conflict; it is foolishness to them, but they that are born again, and have learned the value of their own souls, can set to their seals that it is all true.
II. The second question rising out of the text is this: "How did these shining ones reach that blessed place where John saw them?" Think not it was their own righteousness which brought salvation, and their own strength which upheld them: the cross will surely lead to the crown, but the cross will never deserve it; not all the tears which they had shed, not all the patience they have shown in tribulation, could ever avail to make atonement for transgression, or wash away one single sin. What says the apostle? "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." They have not been ashamed to acknowledge their iniquities, and they have laid them all before the Lord Jesus Christ, and for His Cross and passion, and for His righteousness' sake they have sought a free forgiveness, and they have found it. Lay this to heart, all ye that are wise in your own eyes and holy in your own sight. No doubt there were prophets and righteous men of old, men who had wrought miracles and given their bodies to be burned, men who had been valiant for the truth even unto death, in that great multitude which John beheld; but none came boasting of his own attainments and clothed in his own apparel, - they were all washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.
And lay this well to heart, all ye that are pressed down with the burden of your sins, if any such there be, and dare not lift up your eyes to heaven. No doubt there were sinners before God exceedingly in that company, many who had been publicans and harlots, the very filth of the earth and offscouring of all things, and yet they found a place of forgiveness and, behold they are washed, and white as the driven snow. They were in a world of tribulation like yourselves, but they found time to listen to the report of God's ministers, and when they listened they believed; they did not thing scorn of the goodly land before them; they did not make light of their Master's invitations, but they loathed themselves for their past transgressions and forgetfulness, and with earnest supplication and prayer sought to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, and no sooner did they knock than the door was opened. They were not content with hearing of this fountain for sin and uncleanness, like many of yourselves, and talking of it as a thing to be admired, and very useful for others; they did not sit beside the pool of Bethesda without endeavoring to step in, but they cried, "Lord, have mercy, wash me, even me also," and so they were washed, they were sanctified, they were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God; they obtained a free pardon, and their iniquities were all taken out of the way. By nature they were as weak and timid and sinful and shortcoming as any among yourselves, - there is not a danger or an obstacle or a doubt or a discouragement in any of your minds with which they were not familiar, - and yet they were all saved by the free grace of God, they were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, they were more than conquerors through Him that loved them. Around that throne you would find many who used to be the vilest of the vile. Go up, and ask them, every one, "How did you come hither? whence got you that white robe?" They will answer you, "We were once a generation without God in the world, without light and without hope, we cared for nothing but fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind, we were known as drunkards and revilers and fornicators; many a time we hardened our hearts against advice; many a careless neighbor did we follow to the grave, and tempted God to cut us off by continued impenitence; but at last our conscience spoke so loudly that we dared no longer delay; we tried to keep God's law, but we could not answer it one in a thousand, it brought us to flat despair; we made a great profession, and men said we were converted; but it would not do - sin lay upon us like a mountain, all unatoned for, and we were miserable. But we heard a voice, saying, 'If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,' - He that believeth on Me, though he were dead yet shall he live. 'Come unto Me and I will give you rest,' and when we heard it, we went at once to the Lord Jesus Christ, we waited for nothing, we laid all our sorrows and all our wickedness before Him, and, behold, that very day we were healed and made whole, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." Such is the answer you would get from many in that company which the apostle saw.
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 20)