Jump Start # 2108
Revelation 6:11 “And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed.”
There are always two views of life. This is not the same as saying there are two sides to every story. That’s different. We live here and see things from our perspective. God’s in Heaven and sees things from His perspective. Two views of life. It’s often hard for us to understand why God does what He does from our side of Heaven. Our verse today is a classic example. I’ve been teaching Revelation and we came to this passage in our last study. The context is the opening of the sealed book. Riders on different colored horses had preceded this. When the fifth seal was opened John saw under the altar souls that had been killed because of their faith. They cry out for justice.
Our verse is Heaven’s response to their cry for justice. Given white robes and told to be patient and rest. More would be killed. The worse wasn’t over yet. Then, justice will be served.
It is that tiny expression, “rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren who were to be killed…” that troubles us. From where we sit, this is hard to understand. Why would God allow more of His servants to be killed? Why doesn’t God stop it and stop it right now? Why did even one more Christian have to die? This is a matter of our side of Heaven and His side of Heaven.
Several things are found here:
First, God was aware of what was going on. This was not news to God. He knew all along. In fact, there was a number that had to be completed, our verse tells us. God had a number or limit. When that was reached, things would change. God had His eye on the situation.
Second, from God’s side of Heaven, death is simply a doorway that we pass through to be with Him. Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen. So, God would allow more of His people to be killed. From our side of things, it would certainly look and seem like the persecutors were winning. More and more Christians were dying. It didn’t look like God was able or wanting to stop them. It would become much darker before the light broke through those dark, dark clouds. God was triumphant. He had already won. Christ conquered death by the resurrection and Satan’s days were numbered. It was just a matter of time. That’s how God saw things. We see a different picture from down here.
Third, this news must have been hard to take. Our verse is spoken to those who have already died. It was their souls that John saw sacrificed under the altar. More would join them. It may have been family members and dear brethren that would be coming next. Knowing that some would suffer and die violently for simply believing in Jesus is hard to understand.
I mentioned in a sermon recently about the great New York Yankee Lou Gehrig, who for decades held the record of playing the most consecutive games. He played hurt. He had multiple fractures through the years in his fingers, yet he played on. That made me think of the apostle Paul. We can only wonder how many fractures he endured. He was beaten with rods three different times. That thought brings the image of many broken bones. He was stoned so severely that they thought he was dead. I have hit my foot on a rock before. Boy, that hurt. Imagine rocks, several of them, being thrown, not gently, but with great speed and force at you. There would be cuts, gashes and most likely broken bones. This is in a time before surgery to put in pins, plates and repair such injuries. It makes me wonder if Paul shuffled along slowly because of his previous injuries. Did he have a permanent limp? Was he somewhat crippled? And, on top of all that, God allowed that. He allowed His spokesman, His apostle, to be nearly crushed with injuries.
We want all violence to end. We want school shootings to only be a sad part of our history. Yet, Biblically, God allowed His people to die, violently, at the hands of those whose hearts were full of hatred. Hebrews 11 tells of some who were killed with the sword and others who were sawn into. The prophet John was beheaded. God didn’t rescue Him like Daniel. He didn’t part seas to give these people safe havens. They were killed. There would be more still to be killed.
Fourth, those who had already been killed, were given white robes. They were in conversation with God. They were suffering no longer. They were able to rest. They were not forgotten. They did not die in vain. It was not over for them. Living happily ever after down here, is the world’s definition of the way things ought to be. Leave us alone, and allow us to do what we want, and make the world safe, fair and nice and have everyone get along, and all will be good. Activists urge these concepts. Law makers are pressured to make these things happen. And, when it doesn’t, people throw up their hands in disgust. They use these moments to deny God and they find comfort in pills and the bottle. God allowed His own people to be chased down and killed. Just as Jesus could have summoned thousands of angels at Calvary, God could have sent an army of angels to protect His people. He didn’t.
Their faith, not their death, is what we notice. They left footprints that we follow to this day. Troublesome times are here, we sing. And, the lesson of those beloved suffering saints, touches our hearts today. We complain when it’s too hot in the church building. We grumble when the sermon is longer than normal. And, before us is a passage about souls beneath an altar that had been killed. Word comes to them that there would be more. It sure makes us wonder what would we do? It makes us wonder if we really have faith?
Finally, Heaven’s side of things always makes sense. It’s hard to figure God out and to see what He is up to when we look at things from our side of the world. Sometimes we get short with God. Sometimes we complain to God. Sometimes, we stand in the shadows of Job and wonder what’s He up to. But, through the Scriptures and through passages like ours today, we begin to see things from God’s side of things. His side of Heaven shows truth, righteousness and justice. His side is always right. He’s never let go of things, not even for a moment. The persecutors were not going to kill more than God would allow. They were not going to kill every Christian. Oh, they thought they would. They thought they would eliminate Christianity and erase it from the face of the planet. Yet, here we are, still talking about those wonderful, faithful saints, all these years later. And those mean persecutors, not only do we not know who there are, scholars are not even in an agreement to who they are, Romans or Jews. They are gone. They are forgotten. They have been served justice by God. They met the wrath of the Lamb and it wasn’t a pretty ending for them.
So, passages like this remind us that there are times that I just don’t understand why God isn’t doing things. Maybe He is and I just don’t see it. There are times when I wish God would change things. He will, in His time. And, there are times that I wish I could see things from God’s side of Heaven. It would help us. But for now, we trust Him. We follow Him. We love Him. And, before long, we’ll be with Him.