Wipe away every tear from their eyes: the greatest miracle?

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  This tells of a time when we won’t cry anymore.  Will this be the greatest miracle in the Bible?  Maybe that depends.  For instance – who is being talked about here.  Who’s eyes are their eyes?  And what does wipe away every tear actually mean?Wipe away every tear: the greatest miracle?

I started off by saying, “This tells of a time when we won’t cry anymore”.   At least, that’s what we usually hear about this verse.  Or what we think about when we read it. 

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  

Let’s start with what the passage actually means.  Not at the forest level – but at the tree level.  Because sometimes our own desires and wishes make it so we can’t see the trees for the forest.

I know I always write about how context is important.  However, in this case, I haven’t even told you which book of the Bible that sentence comes from.  And while you may have a desire to go check it out – I’m suggesting that you not do that.  At least, not yet.  We will get into it later.  But if you look it up now, there’s a discovery process that you may lose out on.

wipe away every tear

Here are the Greek words in this phrase:

wipe away every tear

To start with, we see this as a future action.  No – it’s not because of the words, since will was inserted without a corresponding Greek word.  However, we will see later that it’s implied by context.

Second, away was added to make it more readable.  However, that makes sense, since in English we are often wiping something off of something else.  So, wiping the tears away from someone eyes would be a proper way to express the action of wiping.

But – what does every tear mean?  And will that change our interpretation of wipe?  Given that I’m asking the question, it’s a good assumption that we’re going to be surprised by what this action of wipe away every tear meant at that time.

wipe

1813 ἐξαλείφω [exaleipho /ex·al·i·fo/] v. From 1537 and 218; GK 1981; Five occurrences; AV translates as “blot out” three times, and “wipe away” twice. 1 to anoint or wash in every part. 1A to besmear: i.e. cover with lime (to whitewash or plaster). 2 to wipe off, wipe away. 2A to obliterate, erase, wipe out, blot out.  [1]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Using the Jewish approach of looking at all possible meanings and only removing the ones that make no sense, we see some interesting possibilities here.

Obviously, wipe away and wipe off make sense.  These are all things we would do with our own, or someone else’s, tears.

But what about anoint and wash?  That sounds like something that could involve Jesus.  Like washing away our sins.  

However, do we throw away obliterate and wipe out, and blot out?  They aren’t concepts we would normally apply to wiping away teardrops from our face.

But let’s not be too hasty.  Let’s keep going and look at every tear.

every

Every is an interesting word.

3956 πᾶς [pas /pas/] adj. Including all the forms of declension; TDNT 5:886; TDNTA 795; GK 4246; 1243 occurrences; AV translates as “all” 748 times, “all things” 170 times, “every” 117 times, “all men” 41 times, “whosoever” 31 times, “everyone” 28 times, “whole” 12 times, “all manner of” 11 times, “every man” 11 times, “no + 3756” nine times, “every thing” seven times, “any” seven times, “whatsoever” six times, “whosoever + 3739 + 302” three times, “always + 1223” three times, “daily + 2250” twice, “any thing” twice, “no + 3361” twice, not translated seven times, and translated miscellaneously 26 times. 1 individually. 1A each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything. 2 collectively. 2A some of all types. Additional Information: … “the whole world has gone after him” Did all the world go after Christ? “then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan.” Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan? “Ye are of God, little children”, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one”. Does the whole world there mean everybody? The words “world” and “all” are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the “all” means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts—some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile …—C.H. Spurgeon from a sermon on Particular Redemption.  [2]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

While the additional information from the Spurgeon sermon sounds disconcerting – note that he’s referring to people.  In that light, he’s talking about every person in the world, every person in a city, Etc.  In the passage wipe away every tear from their eyes, every refers to the tears – not to the people.  Therefore, it seems like Spurgeon’s comments would not apply.  On top of that, thinking that somehow Jesus wouldn’t or couldn’t wipe away literally every tear is like putting limits on Him.  And still crying in Heaven isn’t something we expect.

tear

tear means exactly what we expect.

1144 δάκρυον [dakru, dakruon /dak·roo/] n n. Of uncertain affinity; GK 1232; 11 occurrences; AV translates as “tear” 11 times. 1 a tear.  [3]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Where are we so far?

At this point, we still have questions about whether or not to include obliterate and wipe out, and blot out in our definition of wipe.  Other than that, no surprises at all.  But I didn’t bring to to this point to say the passage wipe away every tear from their eyes means exactly what you think.  Therefore, the twist must be in the last three words – from their eyes.

from their eyes

wipe away every tear from their eyes

Yes, there are three words.  But let’s start with the first and the last.  After we get an understanding of them – we’ll look into whose eye’s this passage is about.

from

1537 ἐκ, ἐκπερισσῶς, ἐκφωνέω [ek, ex /ek/] prep. A primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause; GK 1666 and together with Strongs 4053 as GK 1735, together with Strongs 5455 as GK 1771; 921 occurrences; AV translates as “of” 367 times, “from” 181 times, “out of” 162 times, “by” 55 times, “on” 34 times, “with” 25 times, and translated miscellaneously 97 times. 1 out of, from, by, away from.  [4]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

OK – so tears are being wiped from eyes.  We still have the questions about wiped – does it include obliterate and wipe out, and blot out?

eyes

Next – let’s look at eyes.  This will answer a question.  But it will raise more questions.  Notice that there are two Greek words that we translate into one English word.  The first (3588) is a definite article – usually untranslated, but generally meaning “the”.  If we stay with that definition, it’s like saying the eyes of the person about whom we’re reading.  It’s a clarification that isn’t usually made in English.

But the second word is the key to wipe away every tear from their eyes.

3788 ὀφθαλμός [ophthalmos /of·thal·mos/] n m. From 3700; TDNT 5:375; TDNTA 706; GK 4057; 102 occurrences; AV translates as “eye” 101 times, and “sight” once. 1 the eye. 2 metaph. the eyes of the mind, the faculty of knowing.  [5]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

The first part of the definition is as expected.  So is the second part, if we take time to think about it.  But how many of us do that?  The eyes of the mind.  The faculty of knowing.  Now obliterate and wipe out, and blot out make sense.  Tears don’t get obliterated or wiped out.  And while tears may get blotted or blotted dry – who talks about tears getting blotted out?  But memories and knowledge of things that made us cry?  Having them blotted out, wiped out, or obliterated?  Those are words that fit.

Remember earlier – we talked about washing as something that Jesus might do.  Now look at this passage from Hebrews:

The Blood of Christ

Heb 9:11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

So we have that concept as well.  

Completing the circle

And it all comes full circle when we look at ourselves – from God’s point of view.

“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

This is from Jer 31:34.  That verse is also referenced in Hebrews 8:12.

So now we’ve come all the way around – from Old Testament – to New Testament – and even to Revelation, which is where the original passage comes from.  wipe away every tear from their eyes.

What is the impact of wipe away every tear from their eyes

So – here’s a question.  What does this mean for us?  It seems like there are two possible ways to look at this.  Well, at least two.

1. We’ll understand what happened with all the events in our lives that made us cry.  And with that understanding, those events won’t make us cry any more.

2. All memories of everything related to any event that made us cry will be wiped away from our memories.

Having said that – I also see more questions arising from both of those options.

Understanding leads to no more tears

While He was addressing the Jews in the temple courts, Jesus said this:

The Children of Abraham

Jn 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jn 8:33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jn 8:34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.’”

Jn 8:39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

As Christians, we should be in the position of holding to Jesus’ teaching.  If you don’t – then the message for you starts at verse 33.  For those who do – the message is very short: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  We don’t know the truth now.  Therefore, the time when we will know it is presumably after our resurrection.  And that truth will set us free.

Of course – that should lead to another question.  Set us free from what?  Or set us free in what way?  Well, this:

1659 ἐλευθερόω [eleutheroo /el·yoo·ther·o·o/] v. From 1658; TDNT 2:487; TDNTA 224; GK 1802; Seven occurrences; AV translates as “make free” six times, and “deliver” once. 1 to make free. 2 set at liberty: from the dominion of sin.  [6]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

It sets us free from the power of sin.

One more question – if I may.  Does that mean when we understand events that made us cry in this life – we’ll truly understand them, and they will no longer make us cry?  And if it’s that, another question comes up.  Does that mean that when we realize our friends, loved ones, family members, even spouses are not with us in Heaven – that we will so completely understand that we won’t cry over their absence?  And let’s go one step further.  If it’s that – doesn’t it also mean that we won’t feel sad about our own lack of attempts to talk with those same people?  

You can see where this is going.  It’s hard to fathom how all of this can lead to no tears.  If it’s all correct – it is a great miracle indeed.

And we can’t even begin to think about how God must have felt about all those things along our lives, including the ones we thought were bad but He allowed to happen.  The things that happened to us.  The things we did, but shouldn’t have.  The things we didn’t do, but should have.

The miracle of wipe away every tear from their eyes just seems to get greater and greater as we go deeper and deeper.  Is it / will it be – the greatest miracle?

Or is something still missing?

Before we decide that understanding leads to freedom, as in the freedom to not cry anymore about past events, let’s keep going.  

Remember the second possibility above related to wipe away every tear from their eyes. All memories of everything related to any event that made us cry will be wiped away from our memories.  If both of those are possibilities, we need to at least consider this one before deciding that understanding is the answer.

Does understanding apply here?

I didn’t include the passage from John 8 to mislead you.  It’s here because it seems to apply.  At least, it seems to on first thought.  However, when looking at it in context, maybe not.  

Look at the second verse of the passsage:

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“Then” refers us back to some previous verse(s).  And the consequence of that verse is we are set free.  Free from sin.  OK.  But let’s look at the previous verse.

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

This is where things get a bit complicated.

What we really have is this:

1. IF we hold to Jesus’ teaching, THEN we are really His disciples.

when we add the next verse, we have:

2. IF we hold to Jesus’ teaching THEN are His disciple, THEN we will know the truth AND the truth will set us free.

Effectively – and actually – what those two verses tell us is that, as true Christians,
IF we are true Christians – who held to Jesus’ teaching,
THEN we are His disciples.
AND
AFTER that happens, we will know the truth.
AND 
AFTER we know the truth,
THEN we will be free of sin.

So what happens when we have memories of the past?  Memories that made us cry.  Will we have a realization that sin was involved in those events, but not be affected by them?  Will we have no sense of loss?  Will we be like Job?

Job’s First Test

Job 1:6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”

Job 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

Job 1:9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Job 1:12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Job 1:13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job 1:22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Who reacts like this?  I never have.  And I don’t know anyone who has.  Will this be what we’re like in Heaven when we think of the sad and painful things from our past?

It may sound good.  But there’s probably one huge difference between Job and mist of us.  We read of that difference in the two verses just before the passage above.

Job 1:4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

Again – who does that?  And in terms of what a Christian should do – how many of us know that all our friends, loved ones, family members, Etc. are saved and bound for Heaven?  Seriously – all of them.  How many of us have even talked to all of them?

Job had a sense of security for his family that few, if any of us have.

Will we look back on our failures as well and feel no sense of remorse?

Memories wiped away

With all those questions still looming, let’s look at the possibility of certain memories being wiped away.  Just how much gets wiped away is one question.  If I look back at my own life, my first sad and scary events go all the way back to when I was four years old.  They involve my parents.  There were more than enough that came later as well, also involving them.  Would any memory of my parents get wiped away?  Or would it only be the ones that made me sad / scared / alone / Etc?  There would be huge gaps.  Even if only certain events got wiped out of our memory, there could / would still be huge gaps for some (many / most?) people.  

And then what happens when / if we meet others in Heaven who had a different kind of relationship with the people who made us cry?  Would our friends remember some things that maybe we wouldn’t?  The possibilities are mind-numbing.  “Just” looking at the physical side of our universe reveals so much complexity.  Adding the emotional side of our lives to the puzzle makes things exponentially more complex.  For instance, take a “natural” disaster.  Maybe a hurricane.  Friends and family die.  We cry over that.  But strangers help out.  There is some level of joy from that.  Different people have different views of the same event.  How is that reconciled?

It’s all so complicated that it’s hard to begin to even envision how it could be possible.

wipe away every tear from their eyes. But – whose eyes?

Let’s take a break from that line of thought.  We will return though.

So far, we haven’t looked at context.  We probably assume that our eyes are included in the ones that will have the tears wiped away.  But is that a realistic assumption?  Let’s look at some context.  It’s from a section the NIV titles The great multitude in white robes.

The Great Multitude in White Robes

Rev 7:9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

Rev 7:14 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. 15 Therefore,
“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.

Rev 7:16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.

Rev 7:17 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.”

OK.  There’s a celebration here.  As for timing – it comes between the sixth and seventh seals.

The Seals

Rev 6:1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

Rev 6:3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.

Rev 6:5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

Rev 6:7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

Rev 6:12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Rev 6:15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

So there’s lot’s of death and destruction from the first six seals.

That’s followed by the sealing of the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel.

144,000 Sealed

Rev 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

Then we have the passage from above about the great multitude in white robes.

That’s followed by the last, and probably most famous, of the seven seals.

The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer

Rev 8:1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Rev 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

Rev 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

After this comes more death and destruction from the seven trumpets.  Similar to the seals, there is a break between the sixth and seventh trumpets.

The Two Witnesses

Rev 11:1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

Rev 11:7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

Rev 11:11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

Rev 11:13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Rev 11:14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

And there’s more death and destruction coming, since the seven plagues and the seven bowls of God’s wrath are yet to come.

The great tribulation

So why do I bring all up all this death and destruction?

Going back to our original passage and it’s context – remember that we read this:

Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

Rev 7:14 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.

There are the ones who will have for whom God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  But – who are they?  There’s an incredible amount of disagreement among “knowledgeable” people who study these things.  Here are just a couple of them.

From The Bible Exposition Commentary

There is no doubt as to who this multitude is, because one of the elders explained it to John (Rev. 7:14): they are Gentiles who have been saved through faith in Christ during the Tribulation. (We will meet this same group again in Rev. 14.) While today, in most parts of the world, it is relatively easy to confess Christ, this will not be the case during the Tribulation, at least during the last half of it. Then, unless persons wear the “mark of the beast,” they will not be able to buy or sell; and this would leave them without even life’s bare necessities. Revelation 7:16 indicates that they suffered hunger (see Rev. 13:17), thirst (see Rev. 16:4), and lack of shelter. (On the heat of the sun, see Rev. 16:8–9.)
The fact that they are standing before the throne and not seated around it indicates that these people are not identified with the twenty-four elders. In fact, John himself did not know who they were! If they had been Old Testament believers, or the church, John would have recognized them. That the elder had to tell John who they were suggests that they are a special people, which, indeed, they are.
Of course, in the heavenly city (Rev. 21–22), all distinctions will cease and we shall all simply be the people of God in glory. But while God is working out His program in human history, distinctions still exist between the Jews, the Gentiles, the church, and the Tribulation saints.  [7]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 590–591). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

There is no doubt as to who this multitude is.  Actually – whether one uses the word doubt or disagreement – there’s quite a bit of both over who this multitude is. 

There are lots of people today, and always have been, people who suffer from literal hunger, thirst and lack of shelter.  We can see this by looking at the Greek from which those words are translated in Rev 7:15.

Hunger3983 πεινάω [peinao /pi·nah·o/] v. From the same as 3993 (through the idea of pinching toil, “pine”); TDNT 6:12; TDNTA 820; GK 4277; 23 occurrences; AV translates as “hunger” 10 times, “be an hungred” nine times, “be hungry” three times, and “hungry” once. 1 to hunger, be hungry. 1A to suffer want. 1B to be needy. 2 metaph. to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire.  [8]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Lk 6:21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Thirst:  1372 διψάω [dipsao /dip·sah·o/] v. From a variation of 1373; TDNT 2:226; TDNTA 177; GK 1498; 16 occurrences; AV translates as “thirst” 10 times, “be thirsty” three times, and “be athirst” three times. 1 to suffer thirst, suffer from thirst. 1A figuratively, those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.  [9]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

In addition to Mt 5:6, remember when Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Jn 4:1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Jn 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Jn 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Jn 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )

Jn 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Jn 4:11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jn 4:13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jn 4:16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Jn 4:17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her,You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Jn 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jn 4:21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Jn 4:25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Jn 4:26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

Not only does this passage talk about Jesus as the answer to our non-physical thirst, but it shows Jesus leading the woman to the springs of living water from Rev 7:17.  And that spring is Himself.

Shelter: While the commentary uses the word shelter, that word is not in the verse which it references.  Remember, what it does say is this:

Rev 7:16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.

The passage is about the sun.  The author makes an assumption that the people will finally have refuge from the sun, as if they will have a shelter to protect them from it.  To further that point of view, there’s a reference to this verse from Revelation:

Rev 16:8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. 9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

As far as this verse goes, there are a couple things to point out.  This was during what is called The Great Tribulation.  It was on earth.  And it was only for a time.  It wasn’t an on-going condition.   

But more importantly, I believe there’s a better reference verse.  Also from Revelation.  But much more important when talking about the sun.  As opposed to The Son.

Rev 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

As with hunger and thirst, the commentary focuses on the sun.  All are related to the physical side of life.  But just as Jesus said He is the bread of life – and the spring of living water – so is He the shelter from all the spiritual attacks that we have suffered in this life.  Yes – on a certain level, this is about physical issues.  But at a much deeper and more complex level – it’s all about Jesus as our salvation.  It’s about God saying He will wipe away every tear from their eyes in every possible way.  Physical and Spiritual.

Let’s continue.

The fact that they are standing before the throne and not seated around it indicates that these people are not identified with the twenty-four elders. In fact, John himself did not know who they were! If they had been Old Testament believers, or the church, John would have recognized them. That the elder had to tell John who they were suggests that they are a special people, which, indeed, they are.

John didn’t say that he didn’t know who these people were – the ones from whom God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  He told the elder asking the question that he (the questioner) knew the answer.  Given that, the rest of the related statement is up for question.

Of course, in the heavenly city (Rev. 21–22), all distinctions will cease and we shall all simply be the people of God in glory. But while God is working out His program in human history, distinctions still exist between the Jews, the Gentiles, the church, and the Tribulation saints.

Again, this seems like a questionable conclusion.  Who are we to say that we understand what God is doing and the guidelines under which He will work out His program?   Who are we to decide that God looks at us differently, up until some point in time when we are suddenly all the same?

On top of that, we’ll see later how this thought matches up with he Old Testament reference from which the Revelation passage comes. 

From The Reformation Study Bible

7:14 great tribulation. Many identify the “great tribulation” with a final period of persecution shortly before the Second Coming. But tribulations for Christians occur throughout the church age, so that the whole age can also be characterized as a time of tribulation (2 Thess. 1:5, 6; 2 Tim. 3:1, 12). The passage was intended to comfort first-century Christians as well as those in the final crisis. See note 11:2.  [10]Whitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. (1995). The Reformation study Bible: bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture: New King James Version (Re 7:14). Nashville: T. … Continue reading

This one makes an interesting point about tribulation, as opposed to what is called the “great tribulation”.  It goes on to say that this is intended to “comfort” first-century Christians as well.  I have my own issue with the word “comfort”.  Too often it seems associated with a false sense of security.  This is more than comfort.  This is a promise.  One that we stake our very lives and souls on.  But what about this difference between great tribulation – or just tribulation?  Let’s see if there’s something to that conclusion.

For that, let’s look at the Greek from which great tribulation is translated in Revelation. 

OK.  Four words.  Let’s look at each of them, in the order shown.

3588 ὁ [ho, he /ho/] article. In all their inflections, the definite article; GK 3836; 543 occurrences; AV translates as “which” 413 times, “who” 79 times, “the things” 11 times, “the son” eight times, and translated miscellaneously 32 times. 1 this, that, these, etc. Additional Information: Only significant renderings other than “the” counted.  [11]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

3173 μέγας [megas /meg·as/] adj. [including the prolonged forms, feminine megale, plural megaloi, etc., cf also 3176, 3187]; TDNT 4:529; TDNTA 573; GK 3489; 195 occurrences; AV translates as “great” 150 times, “loud” 33 times, and translated miscellaneously 12 times. 1 great. 1A of the external form or sensible appearance of things (or of persons). 1A1 in particular, of space and its dimensions, as respects. 1A1A mass and weight: great. 1A1B compass and extent: large, spacious. 1A1C measure and height: long. 1A1D stature and age: great, old. 1B of number and quantity: numerous, large, abundant. 1C of age: the elder. 1D used of intensity and its degrees: with great effort, of the affections and emotions of the mind, of natural events powerfully affecting the senses: violent, mighty, strong. 2 predicated of rank, as belonging to. 2A persons, eminent for ability, virtue, authority, power. 2B things esteemed highly for their importance: of great moment, of great weight, importance. 2C a thing to be highly esteemed for its excellence: excellent. 3 splendid, prepared on a grand scale, stately. 4 great things. 4A of God’s preeminent blessings. 4B of things which overstep the province of a created being, proud (presumptuous) things, full of arrogance, derogatory to the majesty of God.  [12]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

2347 θλῖψις [thlipsis /thlip·sis/] n f. From 2346; TDNT 3:139; TDNTA 334; GK 2568; 45 occurrences; AV translates as “tribulation” 21 times, “affliction” 17 times, “trouble” three times, “anguish” once, “persecution” once, “burdened” once, and “to be afflicted + 1519” once. 1 a pressing, pressing together, pressure. 2 metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.  [13]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

2532 καί [kai /kahee/] conj. Apparently, a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; GK 2779; 9280 occurrences; AV translates as “and” 8182 times, “also” 515 times, “even” 108 times, “both” 43 times, “then” 20 times, “so” 18 times, “likewise” 13 times, not translated 354 times, translated miscellaneously 46 times, and “vr and” once. 1 and, also, even, indeed, but. Additional Information: Frequency count based on 1894 Scrivener Greek New Testament.  [14]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Having read all that, “great tribulation” is obviously a possible translation.  However – is it the only possible translation?  No.  Whether it’s the best possible translation is debatable.  And we won’t really know the answer in this lifetime.  Which brings me to my point.  One that I’ve made many times before.  Who are we to put God in a box and decide for Him which is the “correct” translation?  When it comes to commentaries – and even Bible translations – there’s a great deal of religious politics involved.  We saw that when reading the second commentary – the Reformation Study Bible Commentary.  It’s not at all surprising they’d have a broad definition for who exactly is included in the tribulation in this Revelation passage. 

But then, it’s also true that some other group would have a reason for keeping the number of people smaller.  There is at least one possible problem with that approach though.  We saw earlier in the quick look at the tribulation in Revelation.  This passage comes in the middle of it.  Some would argue that’s because John skips around in time.  That’s really hard to say.  The word translated as “when” in Revelation doesn’t really mean “then”, as in “next”.  It could also mean things like and, also and likewise.  354 times it’s not even translated!  Anyone feel like putting God in a box and deciding for sure what it means?

Let’s take a quick look at what tribulation, in general, means.

TRIBULATION — great adversity and anguish; intense oppression or persecution. Tribulation is linked to God’s process for making the world right again. His Son underwent great suffering, just as His people undergo a great deal of tribulation from the world (Rom. 5:3; Acts 14:22). This tribulation has its source in the conflict between God and the devil (Gen. 3:15), which will end with the devil being cast into the lake of fire to suffer eternal tribulation (Rev. 20:10). Also see TRIBULATION, THE GREAT.  [15]Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Note the distinction between tribulation and the great tribulation.  Also note the source of tribulation.  It’s from the conflict between God and the devil.  And it ranges from Genesis (the serpent in the Garden of Eden) to Revelation (the devil cast into the lake of fire).  One last time – anyone care to put God in a box and say this passage in Revelation only refers to the believers who died in the Great Tribulation?  Or is it more likely, as the previous commentary suggested, that this is for all believers, regardless of the time period?

What about the Old Testament?

As is often the case, we need to look at the Old Testament in order to really understand the New Testament.  After all, many of the original recipients of the message that we now call the New Testament were those who had what we call the Old Testament as their scripture.  And sure enough, we find a reference to God wipe away every tear from their eyes

Praise to the LORD

Isa 25:1 O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done marvelous things,
things planned long ago.

Isa 25:2 You have made the city a heap of rubble,
the fortified town a ruin,
the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.

Isa 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will honor you;
cities of ruthless nations will revere you.

Isa 25:4 You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless
is like a storm driving against a wall

Isa 25:5 and like the heat of the desert.
You silence the uproar of foreigners;
as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is stilled.

Isa 25:6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

Isa 25:7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

Isa 25:8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

Isa 25:9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

A celebration.  Like the passage in Revelation. 
Refuge.  Like the passage in Revelation. 
Tears wiped away from faces.  Like the passage in Revelation.

Removing the disgrace of His people.  Was that in Revelation?

People trusting in God.  Was that in Revelation?

Disgrace?

This is an interesting word.  When looking it up, what actually appears first is shame.  So let’s see what shame is about.

SHAME. The Eng. word and its cognates appear about 190 times in OT and 46 times in NT. These occurrences are translations of original forms representing at least 10 different Heb. and 7 different Gk. roots and a considerably larger number of Heb. and Gk. words.
Two main meanings can be distinguished: descriptions of states of mind, and descriptions of physical states. The states of mind may be classified into three broad categories: first, those where an individual is or might be the object of contempt, derision or humiliation; second, those where he feels bashfulness or shyness; third, those where he feels respect or awe. …
The most frequent usage by far involves the ideas connected with contempt, derision and humiliation. Shame follows when the law of God is disregarded or forgotten (Ho. 4:6–7). God sends it upon the enemies of his people (Ps. 132:18). It is the result of sin and is removed in the day of liberty and restoration (Is. 61:7). It appears at times to be a punishment (Ps. 44:7, 9, 15). In contrast, it is also sometimes a positive preventive manifestation of the grace of God (Ezk. 43:10). It may induce positive action (Jdg. 3:25). False shame at that which is not shameful, viz. allegiance to Christ, is to be avoided (Mk. 8:38). There is also a figurative use of the term, as in Is. 24:23 and in Jude 13.
The usage representing shyness or bashfulness is not as important, since it occurs infrequently. A clear example is the statement concerning the man and his wife before the fall in Gn. 2:25. The usage. which represents awe or respect is also rare. An OT instance is Ezr. 9:6; and there is the apostolic injunction of 1 Tim. 2:9. In the former instance the common Heb. root bôš, which appears on over 90 other occasions in the OT text in the Qal (unmodified verb  [16]In Hebrew grammar, the qal is the simple paradigm of the verb.  The Classical Hebrew verb conjugates according to person and number in two finite tenses, the perfect and the … Continue reading) stem alone, is used; whereas 1 Tim. 2:9 is the only passage where aidōs occurs in the NT.
The uses of the words with a physical reference are concerned with nakedness. These occurrences are not frequent.
The biblical concept of shame is basically that of the mental state of humiliation due to sin, and to departure from the law of God, which brings obloquy (definition [17]1. censure, blame, or abusive language aimed at a person or thing, especially by numerous persons or by the general public.  2. discredit, disgrace, or bad repute resulting from … Continue reading) and rejection by both God and man. The development of the concept is most extensive in the prophets and in the Pauline Epistles. …  [18]BIBLIOGRAPHY. R. Bultmann, TDNT 1, pp. 189–191; H.-G. Link, E. Tiedtke, NIDNTT 3, pp. 561–564.  Woolley, P. (1996). Shame. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, … Continue reading

wipe away every tear from their eyes – do we finally have something?

This is interesting.  Could shame be the key to how God will wipe away every tear from their eyes?
And do we have an answer to whose eyes are being talked about?

Shame

Let’s look at the first instance of shame in the Bible.

The Fall of Man

Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Ge 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Ge 3:4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Ge 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Ge 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Ge 3:10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

The knowledge of good and evil for Adam and Eve leads to knowing shame.  Shame leads to wanting to hide from God.  Wanting to hide, but not being able to leads to fear.  That sequence of events cannot be undone in this lifetime.  It’s only the belief in Jesus, death in this life, and life in the Kingdom of God that can undo what was done.  Nothing else can remove the shame and its associated effects.

Which leads to the feeling that the removal of shame should also remove the fear that came with it.  To take that one step further – is it also possible that the removal of shame also means that no events need to be removed from our memory?  When we see ourselves, and others, as God sees us – will we be able to also remember all past events with no shame?  In other words – removal of no events, but the removal of shame from all events.

When we looked at one of the Hebrew word for “eyes”, we read this:  metaph. the eyes of the mind, the faculty of knowing.  The preceding description could easily fit within that metaphor.  

Let’s take this one step further.  One possible fear of Heaven could be that we will have to deal with all the things we’ve done and the things done to us in this life.  Like we’ll have to reconcile with God and with the people involved.  I’ve often wondered – what kind of greeting is that when we get to Heaven?  I think part of that is a misreading of the two (yes two) judgments.  Add to that a hope that with the proper knowledge and vision – we will no longer see those past events as problems.  Isn’t that what forgiveness is all about?  

Remember what Jesus said at the end of what we call The Lord’s Prayer.

Mt 6:12 Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Mt 6:13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We end this prayer at verse 13.  We don’t include the last two verses.  But they sound important, don’t they?  If we refuse to forgive someone – are we also telling God that we’d rather give up eternity in His Kingdom that forgive someone?  

Their eyes

Continuing with The Fall from Genesis, we also learn something about whose eyes need some tear drying.

Ge 3:14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.

Ge 3:15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

The impact on Adam and Eve is all about life on this earth.  Reading about the curse on the serpent is where we learn about hope for the future.  he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel is seen as the first prophecy about Jesus.

Beyond that, the passage from Isaiah is seen as a prophecy about the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Rev 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.

Rev 19:8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Rev 19:9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

But – who is this feast for?  Is it only for Gentiles – with the Jews excluded, as some have suggested?  I think not.

Sons of God

Gal 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Gal 4:1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Neither Jew nor Greek/  All believers are children of God.  So why would some be treated differently than others?  Why would God dry the tears from some eyes – but not others?

Conclusion

I could have arrived at the conclusion faster.  Written something much shorter.  But then, I mentioned something about a discovery process at the very beginning.  Unless all of the material had been covered and all of these possibilities explored, that process would not have been experienced.  Given the conclusion, or is that the lack of a solid / visible / “touchable” conclusion – it was necessary.  That’s not to say the conclusion isn’t valid.  I believe it is.  In fact, I believe it’s the only possible conclusion, given what we now know.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this article:

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  This tells of a time when we won’t cry anymore.  Will this be the greatest miracle in the Bible?  Maybe that depends.  For instance – who is being talked about here.  Who’s eyes are their eyes?  And what does wipe away every tear actually mean?

What does wipe away every tear mean?  We don’t really know.  Even after everything we’ve just looked at, we don’t really know.  And we won’t know, until / unless it happens.  That’s where faith comes in.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

There are lots of things in the Bible that we cannot see.  Lot’s of things that we cannot prove with any scientific methods.  And yet, we can envision ways in which they will happen.  However – that does not mean the things we envision are the way God will actually do things.  If that was the case, God is very weak.  Certainly He can do things far beyond what we can comprehend or even think of.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think.

The Greatest Commandment

Mk 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Mk 12:29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mk 12:32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Mk 12:34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

We have to use our minds.  Otherwise, how can we know the answers when someone asks us – “Did God really say, …“?

I think we know by now whose eyes will have every tear wiped away.  But to be clear –

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Every Christian knows John 3:16.  So do many non-Christians.  But how many remember that fear is part of the passage.  Fear – because of shame.  We all need to have the shame and fear wiped away.  But only those who believe in Jesus have the promise of this passage.  Everyone else is too afraid of shame.

Let’s look at another word first: Light.

5457 φῶς [phos /foce/] n n. From an obsolete phao (to shine or make manifest, especially by rays, cf 5316, 5346); TDNT 9:310; TDNTA 1293; GK 5890; 70 occurrences; AV translates as “light” 68 times, and “fire” twice. 1 light. 1A the light. 1A1 emitted by a lamp. 1A2 a heavenly light such as surrounds angels when they appear on earth. 1B anything emitting light. 1B1 a star. 1B2 fire because it is light and sheds light. 1B3 a lamp or torch. 1C light, i.e brightness. 1C1 of a lamp. 2 metaph. 2A God is light because light has the extremely delicate, subtle, pure, brilliant quality. 2B of truth and its knowledge, together with the spiritual purity associated with it. 2C that which is exposed to the view of all, openly, publicly. 2D reason, mind. 2D1 the power of understanding esp. moral and spiritual truth. Additional Information: For synonyms see entries 827, auge; and 5338, pheggos.See entry 5817 for comparison of synonyms.  [19]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

This covers a lot of what we’ve already seen.  Things like knowledge, exposed to the view of all, reason, mind, understanding, moral and spiritual truth.  If we think of light only as the thing that exposes everything we’ve done – fear is the natural and obvious response.  But when we look at light in all of it’s implications – we see there’s no need for fear.  No need for shame.  There’s no need for any feeling other than tears being wiped away.  However, unless we really understand what this whole passage says though – the fear remains.

That’s made clear by another word in the passage from John.  But it’s not the word fear.  It’s actually the word exposed.  At least – the word translated as exposed.

1651 ἐλέγχω [elegcho /el·eng·kho/] v. Of uncertain affinity; TDNT 2:473; TDNTA 221; GK 1794; 17 occurrences; AV translates as “reprove” six times, “rebuke” five times, “convince” four times, “tell (one’s) fault” once, and “convict” once. 1 to convict, refute, confute. 1A generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted. 1B by conviction to bring to the light, to expose. 2 to find fault with, correct. 2A by word. 2A1 to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove. 2A2 to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation. 2B by deed. 2B1 to chasten, to punish.  [20]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Look at 1a.  generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted.  That means anyone who is afraid has missed the point of the passage.  Verse 17 says – For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  But we are all too often afraid that God’s out to shame us and punish us that we don’t realize that He said exactly the opposite.  Jesus came to free us from the shame and the fear – not to heap more of both on us.

That desire God has to wipe away our tears is so strong that He actually has tears of His own.  Caused by our refusal to let Him dry ours.

Now that we’ve seen that God has actually offered to wipe away the tears from all of our eyes – and why many refuse that offer – let’s look at the last question.

Is the offer from God to wipe away the tears from our eyes the greatest miracle?

The answer is – it depends.  It depends on the person answering the question.  Right now – at this point in time – I feel like it is.  But you may have something else that you consider the greatest miracle.

I choose this one at this time because it’s the one I have the hardest time with.  I don’t have a clue why God even wants to save us – let alone why He hasn’t already just wiped us all out.  But I believe He does want that.  Who would have done all the things recorded in the Bible – in our own history books – and sent Jesus to go through what He did – unless there was a reason for it?  Without believing that – as Christians we would have nothing.

Even with creation – a new Heaven and a new earth – there’s enough evidence to believe.  As Paul wrote – 

God’s Wrath Against Mankind

Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Other miracles – turning water into wine – healing – also have enough basis in what we know from physics (not medicine, sorry) that we should also be able to conceive of, although not truly understand, these things as being possible.

But wiping away every tear.  For me – it’s hard to comprehend.  So far, impossible to conceive of in this world.  It seems like everything we do is to make more tears, not less.  Forget about no tears – I have a hard time with even fewer tears.  

But then, about a year ago, I had this experience in a hospital.  I had a staph infection, and the antibiotics I was getting weren’t helping.  Organs were shutting down.  But I was completely at peace the whole time.  No fear.  Not even a little bit.  I was ready to “go home” – die – if that’s what God wanted.  I never felt anything like that before.  

It’s taken me three-plus weeks to write this one.  It wasn’t easy.  It’s a hard topic.  I didn’t know where it was going to go.  Actually, that’s a big part of the reason for writing it.  I wanted to see where it went.  For more than two weeks I couldn’t write anything.  Probably because of fear.  Fear that there wasn’t going to be a good “answer”.  But then last weekend I was reminded of those 2 months with the infection.  And the lack of fear.  

And I had my answer.

I have few clues as to how God might wipe away our tears.  Just what I wrote above.  But it’s all based on possibilities.  Nothing is clear.  Nothing is recorded as to how it happens – because we have no reference point.  No person we know and can talk to has gone through the experience.  But I do have faith.   I believe in Jesus.  Further – I believe Jesus.  I have faith that His word is true.  And so, there’s really no other possibility but to also have faith that these words are true as well.

Rev 7:16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.

Rev 7:17 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.”

 

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