Revelation 7:13-14 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
In the church, we spend a lot of time talking about the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We talk about grace because faith is a gift of Godís grace, forgiveness is a gift of Godís grace, and salvation also is a gift of Godís grace. By this we mean that God gives to us freely, without considering our worthiness or merit, God gives to us without considering what we have earned, or even thinking about our ability to pay God back. Godís grace is free and abundant, but that doesnít make Godís grace cheap. For the grace of God is ours only because of Jesus suffering and death, and that price is so great, we donít even have words to speak of the magnitude of the cost. The only thing big, that we can imagine is the size of the national debt, and the national debt not even a penny compared to the cost of just 1 salvation. And Jesus died for all, that all might be saved, and Jesus rose from death, and this too has become our hope.
Which brings us to the question, if the grace of God is so precious, why is it also free and abundant? And this is the question our text answers. For while salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life are the free gift of God in Jesus Christ, this free & abundant grace is necessary. It is necessary because all people will face a great tribulation. A tribulation is a time of trouble generally involving direct suffering. When Jesus calls us to follow, the call is to take up our cross and follow him. A Christian life is not guaranteed to be successful, prosperous, or easy. Putting God first in our life will involve sacrifice. And while I do not know what the great tribulation is, I do know that it is the explanation as to why Godís grace is free and abundant, for we will need all the grace of God to make it through that time.
Why else would God encourage us to put on the full armor of God? Because we need it!. Why, on the one hand we have the devil prowling like a lion seeking someone to devour. On the other hand we find ourselves in warfare, against principalities, rulers, and powers. Not only that, but it is a warfare that is inside us as well, for the old sinful nature keeps seeking to get a foothold, and drag us back to a slavery to sin. Just think about all the things that pull at your life, that keep calling put me first, Iím important, each one of them seeks to take the place of God. This surely is tribulation, and it is only by the grace of God that we can stand fast in true faith through such pressures. And as much pressure as we feel from the word around us, discouraging us from taking up our cross, or following our redeemer, there is yet a great tribulation....
This is why the scriptures encourage us, not to become proud, or secure in ourselves, but to continually be growing in the grace of God, so that when that day comes, by the grace of God, the grace by which we live, we will be able to stand, stand fast in faith. It is thus we return to our text, and for the picture of hope it offers, for it shows us, that by the grace of God, there will be faithful who make it through the great tribulation to stand before the throne of God, clothed in white robes, to serve God, and to be sheltered by God. This is as it were the light at the end of the tunnel.
All of this brings us back to, why are we here? Looking, we can see some whose lives are in turmoil, we are here to bring them the comfort of Jesus Christ, and the grace of God. Some are discouraged, and we are here to bring them hope, the promise that the grace of God is sufficient and the reminder that Christ has already won the victory. Some stand divided, at enmity with one another, and we bring them the forgiveness of God, who teaches us to pray, for give us, as we forgive others; and we bring them the peace of God which passes all understanding.
And we see that those who were far off, and those who are near, have become one by the blood of Jesus, and stand together in faith. And we see God working through them to bring the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth. And this is the picture of the great good shepherd, who hold us in his hand, and enables us to will, and to do, for Jesus sake.