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What's the "Great Tribulation" & the "Great Reward"?

Revelation 7 details these two events that this blog will seek to interpret and unpack.

REVELATION 7:14-17 "14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “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. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”


In Revelation 7, it says those who came out of it. So, what is it they came out of?

Let's do a little word study. The Greek word is "phlypsis," meaning tribulation, used over 40 times in the New Testament. From this, we see that the Church is in a time of tribulation from Christ's first to second coming. Hard times are expected.

Examples: John 16:33, Jesus says, "In this world, you will have trouble (phlypsis), but take heart, I've overcome the world." Acts 14:21 talks about going through many hardships (phlypsis) to enter the kingdom of God. Revelation 1:9 mentions being a companion in suffering (phlypsis).

Before explaining the this tribulation, know this: Jesus promises tribulation. The Church doesn't get a free pass. We may even be in a time of major tribulation now.

Revelation 7 talks about a different kind of tribulation. My take: Though we're in a time of tribulation, just before Christ's return, there'll be intensified afflictions—the Great Tribulation.

Key verse: Matthew 24:21. Jesus speaks of "great distress" (thlipsis megas), unequaled from the beginning till now. It seems a one-time, end-of-the-world event.

Matthew 24 is tricky. It covers signs of the end. Some events are fulfilled throughout history; some were fulfilled in 70 AD, and some look to the end.

An analogy: Biblical prophecy is like seeing mountain peaks in the distance. Peaks are different distances, but from our viewpoint, they seem in a line. Similarly, prophecies may span various times.

In Matthew 24, Jesus refers to Daniel 12:1, speaking of a time of distress unheard of before. Revelation 7 echoes this: a great tribulation, but the sealed will endure.

In summary, tribulation isn't just an end-time thing but characterizes the entire period between Christ's comings. Matthew 24:21 suggests a final intensified tribulation before Christ's return.

Now, Revelation 7 shows 144,000 sealed before the end. After they stand, a great multitude worships God. Both groups face the same question: Who can face the wrath of the Lamb unafraid? The answer: Those sealed and those who stand—even in intense tribulation—will worship God for eternity.

What is our great reward of Rev. 7:15-17?

Our great reward is twofold, rooted in biblical promises: God's provision and God's presence.

In Rev. 7:16, we glimpse God's provision for us. There will be no more hunger or thirst, no scorching heat, and God promises a resurrection with bodies in a new heavens and a new earth. This is not a ghostly existence but a tangible reality with animals, trees, and meaningful work. In this renewed creation, there will be no hunger, malnutrition, distended stomachs, cancer, tears, death, or suffering. God assures us of His provision and protection.

The second aspect of our reward is God's presence, emphasized in 7:15. We will stand before the throne of God, serving him day and night in His temple. The Greek word "skenosai" signifies God tenting among us, a continuous presence. In the new heavens and new earth, there won't be a literal temple, for God's presence will permeate everything. The earth becomes his temple, and the ultimate joy lies in the promise of God's everlasting presence.

The question arises: What if heaven offered all pleasures, loved ones, and abundance but lacked Jesus? The true hope of heaven transcends mere comforts; it is the anticipation of eternal satisfaction in God.

Comparing religions, the Christian vision of heaven stands apart. Heaven is portrayed as a wedding feast, not centered around earthly desires but as a foreshadowing of an intimate union with Christ. In heaven, unlike, for instance, Islam, there is no sex because it symbolizes a deeper, eternal connection with Christ.

An example underscores the significance of God's presence. Imagine a spouse returning after a dangerous journey, fulfilling promises made over the phone. The relief and joy come not just from the alleviation of suffering but from the tangible, face-to-face presence. This illustrates the blessing of God's presence in our eternal future—a reward for those who trust in Christ.

Hebrews 11:6 reminds us of the importance of faith, emphasizing that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith involves believing that God exists and earnestly seeking him, trusting in the reward ofhHis presence. This is the hope that Christians are encouraged to earnestly desire.

In summary, when I read Rev. 7:15-17, I see at least eight blessings we'll enjoy in heaven in the presence of our Lord and Savior:

1. Standing Before God's Throne: We'll stand before God's throne, but we might end up falling on our faces in adoration, joy, love, and gratitude, just like the 24 elders before us did (v. 15a).

2. Serving Day and Night: We'll have the pleasure of serving God day and night in his temple. This service is about worship and praise, not doing tasks for God (v. 15b).

3. Sheltered by God's Presence: God will "shelter" us with His presence, setting his tabernacle over us. This means we'll live in, with, and under him in all His glory (v. 15c).

4. No Hunger: Drawing from Isaiah 49:10, we're promised that in heaven, we won't hunger or thirst (v. 16).

5. No Thirst: Isaiah 49:10 is referenced again, assuring us that we won't experience scorching wind or sun harming us (v. 16).

6. Guidance by God: God, who has pity on us, will lead and guide us by springs of water, ensuring our well-being and satisfaction (v. 16).

7. Death Swallowed Forever: Another promise from Isaiah 25:8 is added to the list, assuring that God will swallow up death forever and wipe away tears from all faces (v. 17).

It's clear that these blessings--originally connected to Israel's restoration--now apply to the church, comprising both believing Jews and Gentiles. The vision of heaven guarantees the fulfillment of these promises and the absence of any harm, pain, or loss for God's people in the new heavens and new earth.