Friday, 27 November 2020
Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. Revelation 6:11
The words here still refer to those first mentioned in verse 6:9. They are those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they held. Their cry went forth asking when their blood would be avenged. In response, this verse is given, saying, “Then a white robe was given to each of them.”
The word for “robe” is stolé. It speaks of a long robe worn by the upper class in the Middle East. When seen, it reflected people of high station and wealth. It was also used as a special festal robe. Here, the white is signifying righteousness, and the style of robe is reflecting their high status because of their willingness to die for the truth of God in Christ.
In verse 4:4, the twenty-four elders were said to be clothed in white robes. Likewise, in verse 19:8, it says –
“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The general symbolism is found here, but with the note of the particular type of robe. This certainly highlights their martyrdom as worthy of special note. As Charles Ellicott says, “Persecuted on earth, they are honoured in heaven.” This particular type will be noted three times in Chapter 7, and once in Revelation 22:14 (depending on the source text used).
The sixth chapter of Revelation corresponds to the sixth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. The sixth letter, vav, pictures a tent peg, and it signifies “secure.” Here, the martyrs of the tribulation are given white robes, signifying the righteousness of Christ, and that they are eternally secure in Him.
After receiving their robes, John notes, “and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer.”
These words are given in response to their cry of the previous verse, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” The answer is for them to “…rest a little while longer.” It is a way of saying, “Let God unfold His plan accordingly. All will be made right, and in the meantime, rest.” In this, it isn’t just a rest from their cries, but a rest which is in peace and without any further cares. As Matthew Poole says, “That they should rest yet for a little season; that they should be satisfied, and acquiesce in God’s dispensations.”
And there is a reason for this. God does, in fact, have a set plan which is “until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” The word translated as “completed” is pléroó. It signifies filling to capacity. There is a set amount that will meet an end purpose, and until that amount is reached, the purpose has not been met. One could think of a scale weighing out gold. The target weight is 44 grams. Until that amount is met, the adding of grains is not fulfilled. So it is with God’s plans for the martyred of the tribulation period.
A concrete example of this type of addition is found in Romans –
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.” Romans 11:25-27
God’s dispensational model clearly reveals that He still has a plan and a purpose for Israel, but that plan includes Israel’s partial blindness until a set number of Gentiles has been filled up (pléróma). Likewise, Paul says –
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
In Paul’s (and also Peter’s) words, it notes that believers are being built into a building. Having a building implies having someone who has planned that building. Every detail of a building is first laid out by an architect, even down to the last amount of wire, tile, or mortar. In this, God has a set plan, and that plan is being worked out in the stream of human existence. Until the details of that plan have been met, we are to patiently wait.
What is important to remember is that God is not indifferent to the slaying of His people. However, because they are His people, they will ultimately be with Him forever. As Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
Because we are in physical bodies, it is our point of reference. We look to the flesh as that which is essential and of the highest value. But this is an error in thinking. Trusting in Christ as these martyrs did, even to death, does not mean the end. Rather, it is only a step to that which is truly life.
Life application: The granting of these garments has symbolism that reaches all the way back to Genesis 3:21 where “for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” This was done only after Adam demonstrated faith in the promise of a Redeemer to come.
By naming his wife “Eve,” he indicated his belief in the promises of God; Eve means “life.” This pattern continues without wavering throughout the Bible. Only when faith in God and His promises are made can anyone be clothed, or covered, by Him. This clothing then signifies that a right relationship with God has been restored. Before that time, a person is separated from Him because of his sins. However, when we demonstrate faith in God’s word, we move from a position of guilt to a state where we are free from guilt. In essence, God bestows upon us the righteousness of Jesus Christ, symbolized by the white robe.
Isaiah speaks of this blessed state –
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10
These martyrs of the tribulation period have demonstrated faith, even to the point of death, and they can now rest in the eternal security which is the reward of this faith.
For His people of Israel, Jesus spoke of this trial that would be faced during the tribulation –
“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.” Luke 21:16-19
Obviously, if someone had been put to death and yet “not a hair of your head shall be lost,” then Jesus was speaking of the eternally secure state of these martyrs.
Despite the bloodbath of this horrific period, there is an appointed end to the death and destruction. God knows, in advance, how many will be martyred. When that number is complete, He will act by sending Jesus back to reign from His throne in Jerusalem. As this is so, and as these things are certain and known to God – in each dispensation of time – then why would we worry about the temporary trials and troubles we face? Let us trust God to deliver us from whatever trouble or trial we now experience. He is faithful and He will deliver. He is JESUS.
Lord God, in Your word, there are many passages about martyrdom for your people. And yet, they are – at the same time – words of comfort and assurance. You have promised that You have us safely in Your care, and that because of Jesus, we will receive the eternal inheritance of everlasting life. We can look to Your word and then to the future and have nothing to fear. You have everything under control. We are secure in Christ. Hallelujah and Amen.