I recently had the opportunity to teach a lesson at youth group on eternal destiny, including the truth and reality of heaven and hell. And although it was daunting and overwhelming to take on such a heavy, sometimes-nebulous topic, it was also very rewarding to put myself in a position to have to express to others the biblical perspective on the issue. While preparing to teach, I came across this gem of a text in Revelation 7:13-17. Take a look:
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes---who are they, and where did they come
I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "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."
"they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
What an amazing image. First you have the setting of the scene, an image of an innumerable group of people from every nation and tongue, all dressed in brilliant white, and holding palm branches while shouting glorious praises to the Lord. That alone is enough to take my breath away. But on top of that, as one of the high school students in the youth group pointed out, you have this illogical concept of washing robes in blood only to have them come out clean and radiantly white. How does that work? Isn't the blood of the Lamb a gory, gruesome image? Well of course it is. We are talking about the blood poured out at Golgotha to atone for the sins of the world, the blood Christ suffered to shed. However, the image of Christ's blood is not all gore. It is also hope, and life, and the promise of purity to cleanse us as we enter our eternal destiny.
So this vast multitude is wearing these white robes, signifying they have been washed by Christ's blood and are now pure. Therefore, they can enter into glory, where they will never hunger nor thirst. Therefore, because of their purity, they can experience heaven. Therefore, by the fact that they are pure (something they could not grant themselves, mind you), they can drink from the springs of living water. How incredible of an image!
Purity is not a promise of sexual abstinence or a pledge to not cuss. Although these may be signs of a pure heart, they are not purity themselves. Purity is the complete and total washing of our lives by the blood of Christ. We must first be drenched in the blood of His suffering to then be wiped clean of our own foulness. Only then can we have the hope of partaking in the glory of heaven, and only then an we hope to have the privilege of entering God's presence unashamed.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)