Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And all that is within me,   
bless His holy name.   
Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And forget none of His benefits.   
- Psalms 103:1-2   
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"How long, O Lord?"

            In Revelation chapter 4, we have recorded what is commonly referred to as the "Throne Scene."  John is permitted to view into the glories of Heaven and record, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what he saw.  He described, as best words can, this majestic scene and Him who sits upon the throne. 

            In chapter 5, John sees a book which has been sealed (v. 1).  John wept when there was no one found who could open the book and loose the seals of it (vs. 2-4).  Yet, he was told by one of the elders:  "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to pen the book, and to loose the seven seals therefof" (v. 5).  Upon hearing these words, John saw in the midst of the throne a Lamb as if it had been slain" (v. 6).  This is unmistakably a reference to Jesus, the Christ!  Jesus was able to take the book and make known its' contents (v. 9). 

            Chapters six, seven, and eight record the opening of these seals.  When the fifth seal was opened, John saw "under the alter the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (v. 9).  These individuals cried with a load voice saying:  "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (v. 10)  It is this statement I want us to consider for just a moment.  There may be times when we, living in such an evil time as we do, ask the question:  "How long, O Lord?" 

            First, we must understand that we do not know when God will call an end to this world.  Jesus stated:  "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mk. 13:30).  Although many have "predicted" the time of the Lord's return, they have failed each time. 

           Second, we must understand that persecution follows righteousness.  The grand theme of the book of Revelation is victory in Christ!  The revelation John received was to written down and sent to seven churches located in Asia (Rev. 1:11).  These Christians were persecuted immensely during the first century.  Throughout time, when individuals did the will of God, they were persecuted.  Many are the examples in the Bible of those who suffered persecution as they obeyed God.

            During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:  "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad:  for great is your reward in heaven:  for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Mt. 5:10-12).  Even in light of this, we almost seem surprised when Christians suffer for doing right.  Peter penned:  "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings...." (1 Pt. 4:12,13).  When we are faced with persecution of various kinds we must be faithful to God.

            Thirdly, we must understand that the Lord's delay in returning is evidence of God's longsuffering and salvation.  Notice 2 Peter 3:9 - "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."  God desires for all men to be saved (1 Tm. 2:4).  Now notice verse 15:  "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation...."  The fact that the Lord has not returned should remind us that God is longsuffering, willing that all would repent and obey the truth.

            Fourthly, we need to spend our time making preparation for the after while.  This earthly life is going to end (Heb. 9:27).  Life is brief (Ja. 4:14).  There is going to be a great Judgment Day (Ro. 2:16).  The questions is:  Are you ready for that Day? 

            Again, we do not know how long it will be till the Lord returns but we know he is coming!  No matter how difficult things may seem to get or how evil the world may be, be faithful so that a crown of life can be yours in the end (Rev. 2:10).  Let us truly be able to echo the words of John:  "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20)

- Donnie Oliver