A Position of Privilege

2015-11-27 11.27.16With cold and snow the family stayed an extra night and returned to Denver at midday. It was good to have them hear and to enjoy our time together. Bridget brought a puzzle and did the work by herself. I wasn’t as much help as two years ago after I got out of the hospital. It is a nice “family” project during the holidays. Next time we will give more assistance.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “These are the people who have come out of the great distress. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Because of this, they are before the throne of God. They worship him day and night in his temple.” Revelation 7:14,15 NCV

As we see the Book of Revelation unfold it reveals not just the judgments on the ungodly, but the suffering of the righteous. As the fifth seal is broken we read, “…I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because they were faithful to the word of God and to the message they had received. These souls shouted in a loud voice, “Holy and true Lord, how long until you judge the people of the earth and punish them for killing us?” (Rev. 6:9,10 NCV)

We then see a John has another vision of the throne of heaven. In this one it is not just the angelic hosts and the twenty-four elders before the throne. Now he sees a multitude dressed in white from every nation. They worship the Lord with the words, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:11 NCV) It is to these worshiping around the throne the living creatures join in saying, “Amen…”

Who are these in this position of privilege? John is told, “These are the people who have come out of the great distress.” (Rev. 7:14 NCV) Later in Revelation we read of those who are faithful to the Lord, “…our brothers and sisters defeated him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb’s death and by the message they preached. They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid of death.” (Rev. 12:11:NCV)

What we see is that these who “overcome” have their eyes and focus on the eternal. Paul in the midst of his sufferings said, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

As John sees heaven opened he is able to record the “unseen” that is the reward of those who are faithful to Christ even to death. Those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, not only inherit the Kingdom of God, but they are in a position of leading in worship around the throne. Their suffering is not an insignificant matter in God’s eyes. Just as the table of a King in the Old Testament was a position of privilege, so we see these who are around God’s throne, in a position closest to Him sharing in the privilege won by their faithfulness.

We also take note that this group represents a “great multitude.” We would like to think that suffering for the cause of Christ will be limited in scope of number and geography, but we see this description is contrary to that idea.

Paul shares some challenging words to believers, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29 NLT)

We see this  attitude of “privilege” to suffer for Christ in the apostles. In the early chapters of Acts when the Sanhedrin tried to stop the preaching of the apostles and punished them their response was this, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:21 NIV)

The writer of Hebrews talks of those who were people of faith but suffered greatly. Some were laughed at and beaten. Others were put in chains and thrown into prison. They were stoned to death, they were cut in half, and they were killed with swords. Some wore the skins of sheep and goats. They were poor, abused, and treated badly. The world was not good enough for them!  (Hebrews 11:36-38 NCV)

Suffering for the cause of Christ is not only a reality, but it is to be viewed as a privilege. We can be confident that the Lord is aware of those who suffer and grants them a special place around His throne in Heaven. Just as we honor the military personnel who sacrifice their lives for our political freedom, those who suffer and are persecuted for the cause of Christ are those deserving of honor in this life and in the the life to come.