Book: Revelation 7:9-17

Home with Jesus

By James Wiese on June 11, 2019

Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter                                                                          May 11, 2019
Text: Revelation 7:9-17                         3 Year Series C                                            19:2131
Theme: Home with Jesus

Years ago a number of skylarks were imported from England and set loose in one of the eastern parts of our country. Soon they made themselves at home and began to breed.
One day a student of birds was listening with interest and taking notes about the song of the emigrant birds. As he was listening to their song, his eye caught sight of a laborer nearby, who had heard the larks sing in his native Ireland. The Irish laborer suddenly stopped, took off his cap, and turned his face skyward. There was a look of surprise and joy and memory upon his face as he listened, entranced, to the song of the birds he had heard sing in his youth. What was the difference between the two men as they listened to the same song of the birds?
For the bird expert it was only a scientific observation, but for the Irishman it was the listening of recollection and remembrance, of affection and hope. So also, through the Gospel of Christ, there come to us those songs which tell us of our heavenly home, the homeland of the soul. One of the greatest songs of recollection and remembrance, of affection and hope is in our lesson today.

I. Look, how many are there.
John writes, “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing in front of the throne and of the Lamb.” It was a crowd so large that no one could count.
What’s the largest crowd of which you’ve been a part? Perhaps a sporting event, a political rally, a concert in a stadium? How many were there? Someone probably counted them. A thousand…ten thousand… perhaps fifty thousand or more? That’s a lot of people. But the crowd John saw was even bigger, so big that no one could count them. It’s as if John saw and gasped, “Look! How many there are!
Ah, that ought to remind us of the promise that God made to our father Abraham so many years ago: “Your descendants,” He said, will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the grains of sand on the seashore.” That was true of Abraham’s physical descendants, which includes many Middle Eastern peoples. But God was not talking about those as much as He was talking about the descendants who are of the faith of Abraham who looked to the promise of the Savior to come.
Think of all those who lived in the past, throughout the Old and New Testament times. Then think of those who lie beyond it. Think of those who are yet to be born in the years that ahead until Jesus returns. Think of everyone who has or will believe in the Savior as Abraham did. John saw them before heaven’s throne, so many that he could not count them all.
If he had gotten a closer look at their faces, John would have seen Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and all the O.T. believers. He would have seen Peter, Paul, James and the rest of the N.T. believers. And wonder upon wonders, God-willing in the future, John would have seen in his vision you and me and all our faithful Christian friends who cling to Christ Jesus alone as our Savior from sin.
He would have seen children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren yet unborn. He would have seen black and white and red and yellow and people of every type of skin color and style of speech – American, African, Chinese, and more – so many that John could not count them all, and neither could we. But the Good Shepherd knows them all by name and they know Him (Jn.10:27). And He treats them all the same, for they believed in Him. They are at home with Jesus above, as John saw it. Look! How many there are! No one could even begin to count them all. And if you believe in Jesus as the Savior, your face is among them.

II. Look! They are all dressed in white, free from sin.
That’s the special way John described them in their heavenly home. It is a place free from sin and its consequences – free from all the bad things that affected life here. That’s the way the Bible often speaks about our heavenly home to us. It tells us what won’t be there so that we might begin to grasp the reality of its eternal joys. Why does it do that? Think of it this way.
If you were going to describe the land of Hawaii to a person who lived at the South Pole, you could hardly give him an idea of it by mentioning some of the things that are there. What would a palm tree mean to a man who had never seen anything but snow and ice? What would the flash of a brilliantly colored bird’s feather mean to one who had never seen any bird but a penguin? What would the elephant or lion mean to one who had seen only a floundering seal? You would have to describe a land that one has never seen by telling him what was not there by things he knew. That is similar to what the Holy Spirit employs in telling us about our heavenly home and life beyond the grave.
It does that because here we are sinners living in an imperfect world.
We’ve never known perfect joy and happiness. So God speaks to us in terms of sin and its accompanying sorrows and tribulations as completely gone from us above.
Isn’t that the reason we often hear someone say about a family member or friend who has died, “Oh, it’s a blessing! They are better off now”? Why do we say that?
Usually, it’s because that person has suffered through things like cancer, Alzheimers, or excruciating pain of some sort. It’s a relief to see the sufferer released from it. “Oh, it’s a blessing,” we say. “They’re better off now.”
Sadly, such sentiments are not always true. Death is a release from sin and its consequences for the redeemed, those who cling to their Savior in steadfast faith for cleansing from sin. But make no mistake about it. Death is not a release for everyone.
The Bible says, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved; but whoever does not believe shall be condemned” (Mk.16:16).
So, if we ask, “Who are the ones for whom death is a blessing as it frees them from sin and brings them to an eternally happy home where all sorrow and sufferings are gone?”…our text responds, “They are the ones coming out of the great tribulation who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Such people knew their sin and weakness here. They recognized their total inability before God. But the difference about that multitude is that they clung to the merits and work of Christ Jesus alone for forgiveness. Of them we are told, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Look! Dressed in white, free from sin, that’s what the saints in glory enjoy. And one day we too will enjoy it as we cling steadfast in faith to our Savior. We’ll find ourselves in such a perfect home.

III. Look! They stand face to face in God’s presence forevermore.
And there’s more. “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…for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.” Look! They stand in God’s presence forevermore.
The presence of God is a blessing; it’s a comforting thing. That’s why Christians like to spend time in God’s House. For God’s Word is here and where His Word is, there He is also. He is here even as we sing and speak His Word, and we find peace and rest in it, even in the darkest moments.
Still, we are often troubled because we can’t see Him or touch Him; we can’t look into His eyes and speak to Him face to face. That is something Christians long to do, especially as they “pass through the valley of the shadow of death.” We can’t do it here – face to face.
But there the great multitude, dressed in white, freed from sin see God face to face. They stand before His throne; He spreads His tent of protection over them; and they find joy forevermore in their Good Shepherd’s presence and leading. You can’t have a closer life with God than that. I wonder what my first glimpse of the Shepherd, who gave His life for a sinner like me, will be. How wonderful! You and I yearn for it and are hope filled. But those who have already fallen asleep enjoy it and are content. They are content for they are now home with Jesus. God grant it in His day to us all in faith; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy

By James Wiese on March 25, 2019

Christian Funeral Service for Audrey Darlain Waples
Saturday, March 23, 2019                                                                  Text: Revelation 7:9-17
Theme: What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy                                          19:2117

What do you remember Audrey for? People who are close to us, people whom we’ve known for a time – there’s always something about them that we remember. For Audrey, what is it?
Sometimes I wonder why I remember the things I do. It’s not the “big” things I remember as much as little things, simple things.
For example, when we moved to Missouri in 1992, we lived a little way up Golden Ave. from church. One of the first times I ventured out, I went to see your mom and dad. Early one evening I drove down Campbell before it was a big thoroughfare. At the time there was little built south of James River Frwy. In fact, the freeway ended at Kansas Expwy. No Sams, no Andy’s, no Library, there was a water slide, a nursery, a few businesses on the way to Nixa. Nixa’s population was only 4,000. You boys lived on College St.
The first time I came over the hill and down into the James River Valley where Steinert’s is, I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty!” Believe it or not, there were probably only 3 or 4 other cars on the highway – a far cry from today’s busy road. It was a pleasant drive.
I came into Nixa for the first time and couldn’t find where your parents lived, not too far from the house today. They lived in an apartment, but it didn’t face the street and was tucked back, on the side. Your dad answered and we sat and talked. I don’t remember our conversation other than it was a pleasant visit, and I heard about Shoji Tabuchi for the first time. Your mom and dad were some of the first members I visited after moving here. I won’t forget that.
Other things I remember about Audrey are the things she seemed to enjoy: Bible class (she knew her Bible well); taking the Common Cup in the Lord’s Supper and Emily watching her out of the corner of her eye; talking about the history of WELS and CLC in South Dakota, and church family names we both knew. She enjoyed many hymns. In fact, it made it a little difficult for me today. We sometimes talked about what she would like to have sung for this service. I would mention one and she would say, “Oh, I like that one.” And then another, “Oh, I like that one, too.” And then another, “Oh, that’s one of my favorites.” If I picked all the hymns to sing today that she liked, we would be here until 2 o’clock. The same with Bible verses. And I know that she enjoyed potlucks. I grin about that because I think that she took more food home with her than she ate here. I ribbed her about it once. She chuckled her little Audrey chuckle: “Well, I just want to try a little of everything,” she said as she walked out the door. It’s memories like that, simple things about my friends here at church that I enjoy.
It makes me wonder what my good friend, Audrey, and so many other saints who died in faith now have and enjoy. Here in our text we get just a glimpse of What Those Saints Enjoy in Heaven.

I. Dressed in white they enjoy an eternal existence, free from sin. That’s the special way John described heaven here, as a place free from sin and its consequences. Freed from things, from all bad things – that’s the way the Bible often speaks to us of heaven. It tells us what won’t be there.
It does that because here we are sinners living in an imperfect world. We’ve never known perfect joy and happiness, and we cannot imagine what that will be like because it goes beyond our present experience. So, God speaks to us in terms of sin and its accompanying sorrows and tribulations, things we understand and suffer here, being completely gone from us in heaven.
Isn’t that the reason that we often hear someone say about a family member or friend who has died, “Oh, it’s a blessing! They’re better off now”? Why do we say that?
Usually it’s because that individual has suffered through things like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or, like Audrey, the continuing pain of shingles and other weaknesses of the body that have gone on for a time. It’s a relief to see them, to see her released from that suffering. “Oh, it’s a blessing. They’re better off now,” we say.
Sadly, such sentiments are not always true. Death is a release from sin and its consequences for the redeemed, those who cling to their Savior in steadfast faith for cleansing from sin. But, make no mistake about it, death is not a release for everyone.
The Bible says, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved; but whoever does not believe shall be condemned” (Mk.16).
So, if we ask: “Who are the ones for whom death is a blessing as it frees them from sin and brings them to an eternally happy existence where all sorrow and sufferings are gone?” – our text responds, “They are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Such people knew their sin and weakness here. They recognized their total inability before God. But the difference about them is that they clung to the merits and work of Christ Jesus for forgiveness. They are the ones who love to sing, “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.” Of them we are told, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” They are dressed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness, relying completely on Him.
That was Audrey. Her complete trust in Jesus as her Savior was evident in the things she did and said. Was she perfect? No! And she would be the first to confess that. But she was washed in the blood of her Savior and held to Him alone in faith. In that faith she now takes up a place with the “great multitude that no one can count…standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They are wearing white robes and are holding palm branches in their hands. And they cry out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb…Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
What a blessing to see What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy. It lifts our hearts and sends us away rejoicing in the Lord for her.

II. Dressed in white they enjoy a close life with God forever.
And there’s more. Our text continues, “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.”
The presence of God is a blessing – a comforting thing. That’s why Audrey liked to spend time with God in His House. She knew that God’s Word is here and where that is, so is He. He is here, and one finds peace and rest in His Word, even in the darkest moments.
Still, we are often troubled because here we can’t see Him or touch Him; we can’t look into His eyes and speak to Him face to face. That is something Christians long to do, as we “pass through the valley of the shadow of death.” We can’t do it here.
But there, dear friends, after the believer has closed her eyes here for the last time, there she opens them to see that reality. She sees God face to face in glory. She stands right before God’s throne. And the Lamb of God who died in her place fills the believer with joy in His presence. You can’t have a closer life with God than that which Heaven’s Saints, dressed in white, now enjoy.
You and I yearn for it and are hope-filled. Those who have already fallen asleep enjoy it and are content – content forever in their life with God. That’s What the Believer Enjoys in Heaven.
So, dry your tears and rejoice. No longer a stranger here, heaven is home, to Audrey and Keith, once more united after 19 years apart, and to all who believe in the Savior. What a wonderful truth to hold! And that’s a blessing for us today, to see What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy. God grant it to us in faith; for Jesus’ sake. Amen