The most miserable experience of my life was running the Chicago marathon. I’m not a runner, but my friend Randy asked me to do run and he was a tough man to refuse. Near the end, I was bedraggled, exhausted, crying, and broken. I just wanted it to be over. But as I approached the final mile, waves of spectators began cheering me on. They were only there to do that. What beautiful people! Their encouragement got me quickly over the finish line and I was immediately given a silver jacket, a participant’s medal, a bottle of water, and something to eat. I went from corpse to conqueror in one swift second.
That’s the picture of martyrdom in Revelation.
You die bedraggled, hungry, poor, bleeding. But as you approach the end, you hear the crowd-noise from heaven. The elders and the creatures and the angels and the multitudes energize you to finish well. And when you bleed across the border between life and life-after-death, they give you a white robe, a victor’s branch, and a song.
You come into glory brilliantly, and he wipes the sweat off your brow and the tears from your eyes and tells you you’ll never have to do that again.