November 25, 2012

THE BLESSED CITIZENS OF GOD’S KINGDOM.

(Revelation 7:9-17)


Part of the Saxon Pericope Gospel list series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful Witness, and the First Begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 1:4-6) Our text is recorded in Revelation 7:9-17, reading as follows:

Dear fellow redeemed sinners, redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who sits by the throne of God, and made saints through the working of the Holy Ghost. Already God revealed much to Isaiah, who in turn faithfully passed it on to others. God promises to send His Son as Messiah (7:14; 9:6). He describes the suffering Savior in chapter 53. He previews all nations coming to the victorious Lord in chapter 60 and other passages. Yes, Isaiah rejoices in His triumph and the new heaven and earth, as we hear in today’s Old Testament lesson (65:17-19). Now John in Revelation pictures –
THE BLESSED CITIZENS OF GOD’S KINGDOM.
He beholds
I. The multitudes before His throne, and
II. Their glorious future.
I
John reports of multitudes gathered before God’s throne. After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. This is the beautiful description of which John is privileged to write. He says that this enormous group is immeasurable by any man We have our government census every ten years , but there is speculation about how many people we fail to locate and count. Here is a population vastly greater than that of any one country, for its members are drawn from all over the world. No man is able to count them, but God alone knows the total. Yes, the Lord knoweth them that are His (2 Tim. 2:19). And Jesus assures: “They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Not one is forgotten or stolen away from this precious fold. These believers come from all nations. Occasionally it seems as though there are so very few of us, as it did once to Elijah, (1 Kings 19:10), although even at that low point there remained 7,000 others. These people are gathered over many millennia and not only from one brief time or place. That is why they are innumerable to us. John also speaks of the presence of all nations, as Isaiah often notes with joy. See once again that it is not race but God’s grace which brings people into this assembly. It is the reversal of the nations scattered at Babel. There is no more competition, distrust, intrigue, deceitful diplomacy, feigned peace. Instead they all dwell together as brethren in love and peace. Note that John says “all nations, people, kindreds, and tongues.” But he does not say “all religions,” all worshippers of other gods. There is no more remembrance and mention of those. This group consists of believers and believers ONLY, those who trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son as their Savior, and not in some vague “god” or their own works. Recall the warning in our Gospel reading of maintaining the oil of faith (Matt. 25:1-13). These people are well aware of the “wedding” and are found with oil in their lamps, ready to meet the Bridegroom when He comes. Hypocrites, those without any oil of faith in their lamps, who only dress the part and go through the motions, are separated out and refused entry into the kingdom of heaven. John describes the masses present as clothed in white. Their creed is the Lamb of God and not their own works. White is symbolic of Christ’s perfection. Remember that this is a vision with symbolism, and does not necessarily mean that we shall wear only white robes forever and no other color be allowed.
Having described their appearance, John also describes their behavior. [They] cried with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Do all the saints sing at once in their various languages, resulting in a terrible din, a cacophony? Or do they take turns worshipping Him in their native languages? Or do they more likely join in a universal language as before the tower of Babel? -- And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, “Amen. Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” The angels join in singing to our mutual God. With a bold “Amen” they express their agreement with what the believers have professed. In harmony the angels sing the praises of God’s wisdom manifested in His wondrous plan of salvation, which they desire to look into (1 Pet. 1:12). This is meet and right, i.e. fitting and proper. Their hymns are directed to the whole Godhead, to the Father upon the throne, to the Lamb beside Him, and to the Holy Spirit. God has created, redeemed, called, preserved by His power these people gathered here around the throne. “For ever and ever” they sing; it is a song echoed throughout eternity. This is John’s description of the heavenly scene.
II
Next we consider their glorious future. One of the elders answered, saying unto me, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, “Sir, thou knowest.” And he said to me, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in His temple.” This testifies of their righteousness. They are redeemed. They are released from their prior iniquity. The Lord declares in Isaiah: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:18a). Here we see that final fulfillment. They are washed in the blood of the Lamb. God has restored them to righteousness. This is needed for their own “righteousness” is insufficient. Heaven allows only perfection and only God’s only-begotten Son is strong enough to remove those stubborn stains of sin which affect us all. It is all to His glory and not even in part due to our own works. There we are forever free of sin and are holy. Some of those gathered there once suffered severely on earth. They went through “tribulation,” yes, experienced “great tribulation” on account of their faith in Jesus. Therefore, when we have troubles and problems in this world, it is not always a sign of God’s displeasure with us. Such is sometimes the work of those who hate God and try to discourage His followers (John 15:20). Their martyrdom of these Christians is the result and sign of their great faith. They survive, believing only by His strengthening them to overcome. They delight in His service. In heaven it is fulfilled: His yoke is easy and our burden light, as Jesus says in Matt. 11:30.
God gives them eternal provision. He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. Yes, He that sits on the throne shall dwell with them forever. They enjoy God’s continuous presence in their midst. He no longer communicates by visions or dreams or shows His presence by signs like the fiery or cloudy pillars in the wilderness, or in the shekinah, the glowing cloud which descended into the Holy of Holies at the dedication of the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34). They are privileged to see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Moses and the people were not able to look at God on Sinai (Ex. 33:20). But that is our joy in heaven. Peter, James, and John fell down upon the Father’s voice from a glowing cloud which descended upon the mountain at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:6), but here they stand in confidence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. There is no more suffering for them in this safe and sacred place. There is here no labor in the sweat of their brow. There in the new Eden they enjoy freely God’s bounties. They neither hunger nor thirst, for God supplies all their needs. There is no sin and thus the absence of the bitter results of sin. Nor do they have any more desire to sin, for the old nature is completely eradicated. They wish only totally to do God’s will. So we frequently ask in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s will be done here on earth, even “as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. God the Father Himself personally sees to their provision. God wipes away all tears/ The Lamb of God, the divine Shepherd leads us to lush pasture and still water, as famously pictured in Psalm 23.
Here we have the portrait John paints of the new heaven and new earth. It is only a dream? No! Jesus promised to prepare just such a place (John 14:3). Peter, James, and John had a peek at Moses and Elijah glorified on the mount. Stephen was permitted a brief glimpse of Paradise as he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:55f). John here has a much longer look into heaven, which he records for us in the last book of the New Testament. What can any people in this world offer in place of this? By faith we already “see” and eagerly await the coming of the new heaven and earth. Yes, glory to God for His goodness to us. Amen.
We close with the praises of the angel choir: “Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” (v. 12)
HYMNS: 613, 656, 471, 468
GLORIA DEI – HOOD RIVER, OREGON
November 25, 2012