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.