Week of May 15: A vision sent by God to encourage the faithful


 Rev. Doreen Smalls
Lesson scripture: Revelation 7:9-17
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet, stated, “Into each life some rain must fall.” This simply means that all of us will experience trials and hardships in this life. In the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation, John encouraged persons to endure through their ordeals.
A Heaven without borders
Borders are used to separate geographic locations. If we look at any city, state or country map, we can see the markers that segment the various communities and regions. And within communities, we notice the lines of demarcation according to ethnicity and social or economic status.
In the book of Revelation, John describes a heaven with no borders or boundaries to disconnect. There is no discrimination based on race, age, nationality or social status. All persons who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are welcome. John proclaimed, “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb” (Revelation 7:9).   
What an incredible image! It is good news to know that heaven is a place where there is perfect unity and peace. In heaven, there are no divisions among nations and no schisms among humankind. People from every nation and tribe will gather together and worship God.    How does this vision of heaven shape the church’s present?
Washed in the blood of the Lamb
It does not seem logical that something soaked in red can come out white. Revelation tells us that’s exactly the outcome of the believers’ robes. It states, “Who are these, robed in white and where have they come from? ... These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14).
An ordeal is an extremely severe test, trial or experience. Jesus suffered the greatest ordeal of all by taking upon himself all of humanity’s sin. He was mocked, flogged, spat upon and taunted. He was led to Golgotha’s Hill and crucified between two thieves. After this “bloody ordeal” was over, he was raised from the dead and an angel of the Lord clothed in white announced to Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” the good news of his resurrection (Matthew 28:1-7).   
At the time of John’s vision, the church was under great persecution and suffering. Believers who publicly proclaim their faith were threatened and terrorized. Not only was this vision a sign of hope for John, who was imprisoned for his faith, but it was also a sign of hope for the believers in the early church who were struggling to keep their faith in the midst of opposition and hostility. This vision from God was a source of inspiration and encouragement for them to be steadfast in their faith.
Today many Christians are still experiencing persecution because of their faith. “The promise of sanctification and the cleansing by Jesus’ blood is hope for all who endure trials and temptations of life.” Have you been washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? How does this give you hope in the midst of difficulty?
Trouble will not last always
Many African American spirituals were penned during the time of slavery and incredible hardships. They did not allow their afflictions to cloud their faith in God. A better future was envisioned despite the afflictions and anguish they experienced. Their worship reflected their faith in God. 
John envisioned a time when “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17). 
John’s vision was hope to those who were suffering. It serves as a reminder for persons not to give up and not to lose faith.   This vision also reminds us that suffering will not last forever and tribulations only last for a season. A day is coming when all anguish and pain will come to an end.         
How does God’s promised future renew your hope for today?