Here is a recent Bible Study I just wrote for my New Testament Strength For Today Daily Devotional Guide. It is a Bible Study from Revelation 7. This chapter is all about salvation, fulfilling the prayer of Habakkuk “O God, in wrath remember mercy!” (Hab. 3:2). While the Tribulation period will be a time of judgment, it will also be a time of unprecedented redemption (Rev. 7:14; 6:9-11; 20:4; Isa. 11:10; Matt. 24:14).
God sends 4 angels to the 4 corners of the earth, that is, the four directions of the compass (north, east, south, west), and they halt the destruction of the earth. They are commanded: “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (vs.3). This pause in judgment has a purpose—and that purpose is to place a seal of protection on 144,000 Jewish missionaries who will evangelize the world and lead many to Christ. Verses 5-8 list the twelve tribes of Israel, and state the fact that 12,000 from each tribe were sealed. These are Jews (as evidenced by the “tribes” of Israel), but they are also Christian missionaries.
After the 144,000 are sealed, John sees an amazing sight: “After these things I looked, and behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, people, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands” (vs. 9). This huge multitude is praising God for His salvation in spite of the fact that they had been martyred! Though they have given their physical lives for Christ, they are rejoicing in the spiritual life and the eternal life they have because of Him! Chapter 7 then, is actually a commentary on the fifth seal judgment of Rev. 6:9ff. Even the little detail of the “white robes” these martyrs, these Tribulation saints, are wearing, is the same.
Just to be sure John understands the identity of this throng dressed in white robes, one of the elders asks him: “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And the answer comes back: “These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs. 14). White robes in the Bible symbolize the righteousness of Jesus Christ, without which none of us could enter heaven. Someday, we too will be arrayed in white robes (see Rev. 3:5; 19:7-8, 14).
Do you wonder why these Tribulation saints, martyred for their testimony, are rejoicing, in light of their fate? I think the key is found in chapter 9, verse 6: “In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” The plagues will be so awful that death will be preferable to living in such torment! Don’t feel sorry for the Christians who are put to death for their faith in Jesus—they are the victorious ones—the ones fortunate enough to be delivered from the tribulation! Compare again what we saw in 6:16 where everyone is trying to hide in the caves and mountains, begging God to make the rocks fall on them. You see, the words of the Apostle Paul are ever so true: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8), and “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
Note specifically what these Tribulation saints are thankful for: “They shall neither hunger any more nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat, for the Lamb will shepherd them and lead them to living waters” (vs. 16-17). In other words, they are no longer suffering from the various plagues of the Tribulation, and have come into the presence of the One who said to the woman at the well: “I am the living water. Whoever shall drink of the water I give him will never thirst again” (John 4:10-13).
One final thing God does for these martyred Christians of the Tribulation. “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (vs. 17). We will see this beautiful promise again when we come to Rev. 21:4. It is a verse I always used at funeral services when I was a Pastor. All the sadness and sufferings of this life will be over when we see Jesus.
"Oft times the days seem long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain--to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear and catch His bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrows will erase--
So bravely run the race, till we see Christ!"