SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- The number 12 was the number of tribes of Israel (in the Old Testament) who comprised God's people. It's also the number of disciples Jesus had. It is likely that the numbers reported in this chapter are not literal, but symbolic. The repeated use of the number 12 (times 12) probably represents all of God's "redeemed" people (those who were brought into relationship with God through their faith).
- The people in Heaven wear "white robes" (verse 13). The white robes represent the purity of those in Heaven. Only perfect people, without any sin, can get into heaven.
- In verse 14, we read of a "great tribulation" people in Heaven had experienced (seemingly on earth). A note in The NIV Student Bible says, "Bible interpreters have proposed many theories to explain “the great tribulation,” a time of great persecution for Christians. Some believe it will occur in the future, around the time of Christ’s return. Others believe John was referring to persecutions against the church occurring in his own day. Regardless, John stresses the overarching promise that the time of tribulation does not last forever. One day the faithful will no longer hunger or thirst and will never again have reason to cry (verses 16-17)."
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- The white robes represent the purity of those in Heaven. Only perfect people, without any sin, can get into heaven. The problem is that we have all sinned and none of us are perfect. This is why God sent Jesus, and why Jesus died for us. In verse 14, we read that the reason the people in heaven have white robes is because they have been washed "in the blood of the Lamb." The blood Jesus shed on the cross takes our sin away and makes us pure. Without Jesus' sacrifice, and without our embracing it personally, we cannot be made right with God and cannot get into Heaven.
- We get a quick glimpse of heaven in this chapter. We will never hunger or thirst, God will shield us from the scorching heat, we will be led to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Best of all, God will be there and we will always be in his presence. Sounds like the kind of place we would want to spend eternity!
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Have you embraced Jesus' sacrifice for you and put your faith in him? If not, what's holding you back? If so, how does it make you feel knowing that your sins have been removed and you can get into heaven? And, speaking of heaven, how do you feel that you have a perfect eternity with God awaiting you?
- Spend some time thanking God for all of this.
- And -- think about people you know who don't know Jesus in a personal way. They need to put their faith in him, and God has put them in your life to help that happen. Who could you invite to church in hopes that eventually they'll come to faith, and be in heaven? The Christmas season is one of the times people are most open to going to church. Invite some people this week!