Cyber Lutheran - Christian Broadcasts, On-line Church
Home | Activities | Beliefs | Contact Us | Links | Mission | Pastor | Preschool | Sermon | SermonArchive
BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Nov 5, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the first lesson before us from Revelation 7:9-17. There we read these words:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

We begin in the name of Jesus, Amen

"Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" The elder asked. And then he provided the answer. They are from all nations— the same words that Jesus used when He said to His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," and they are from all tribes and peoples and languages, because the Lord declared that His Word would go forth to all the world.

It’s not a small number. It’s a great multitude. The Church always seems to look like a scattered few people nearing extinction in this world, but God will have His people be too numerous to count! They are standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They are clothed with white robes and they are holding palm branches in their hands. Waving palm branches only pops up twice in Scripture: Palm Sunday and here, in Revelation 7.

On Palm Sunday, the people waved palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey. They were shouting, "Hosanna"—"save us now!", and "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." But now, while the palm branches are the same, everything is different—it’s fulfilled.

Instead of the cross, there’s a real throne. Instead of the Savior preparing to sacrifice, He is now present as the resurrected Lamb who had been slain. Instead of them throwing down their garments in service to Him, they are wearing white robes that He has given to them.

And instead of crying out, "Save us now!," they declare that He has: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" It’s done. The cross is over. The victory is the Lord’s.

They’re in pretty special company: they’re standing with angels around the throne. The elders are there, too—the twenty-four elders, perhaps the twelve apostles and the twelve patriarchs, who have thrones and crowns of their own. So are the four living creatures. This rather elite choir continues the song that you heard last week in Revelation 5: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." All of this belongs to Him.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

They’ve come out of the great tribulation. Some will tell you that this refers to a special seven-year time period just before the end of the world, but that’s some fanciful interpretation.

They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The Blood of the Lamb has removed every stain and spot of sin from the robes of this crowd—not just from one or two, but from the entire multitude. They are holy and clean before God, their robes white, because Christ has paid for every last one of their sins.

They are "before the throne of God," but the throne is not empty. They are in the presence of God, "who sits on the throne" and "who will shelter them with His presence."

Back in the Old Testament, God concealed Himself because the people couldn’t see His glory and live: stained and unholy with sin, they couldn’t be that close to Him—He had to hide for their good.

Now, in Revelation 7, He shelters them with His presence. In other words, they are in the presence of God (and can be!) because they’re holy, and only holy things can be in the presence of God.

And the text concludes, "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes."

So who are they? Who makes up this great multitude from all nations, gathered around God’s throne with the elders and the living creatures? Who has the honor of being that close in white robes, waving palm branches and singing praises to the Lamb? Who are these, delivered from the great tribulation, never to suffer sin, pain or affliction again? Who are they?

They are you. You are among those whom God has gathered in from all nations. You are cleansed with the blood of Christ, and you wear the white robe of His righteousness, because all who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ. What you see in the text is your future. This is not a possibility or one of several endings: this is what Jesus has redeemed you for.

Your Lord has redeemed you for eternal life in the presence of God. Jesus came and defeated sin, suffering the hunger, the thirst, the pain, the tears and all of God’s judgment for sin. Jesus reversed the curse of the Garden of Eden.

And because Jesus won salvation for you, your sins are forgiven. Heaven is yours…and heaven means being in the presence of God, the Giver of all good things, for eternity.

In contrast, hell would be where God is not—or at least where God is not present with His grace and mercy. For those who want nothing to do with God, they receive what they want—though they will find an existence completely without God to be a terrible thing indeed.

But hell is not for you. You’ve been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Your future—your eternity—is life in His presence, with every good thing. That is what God offers to all people through His Son Jesus Christ, so that all who believe in Him might be saved from hell and delivered to heaven.

But for now, you’re neither in heaven or hell. You’re in this world, sort of in between, because you still witness the wages of sin with the sickness, the troubles, the anxiety and everything else that contributes to great tribulation.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

And yet, God is still present in this world. There’s still a bit of heaven here for precisely that reason: God is present with you, as near as His means of grace. He’s clothed you in that white robe of righteousness in your baptism, He keeps speaking you clean with His absolution, and He gives you a foretaste of the feast to come in His Supper.

But this world is not heaven completely: God is present, but God must still conceal Himself in words and water, bread and wine. He must do so because sinners can’t abide His glorious presence and live. So for now, you’re between heaven and hell, enduring in a world that features both hellish tribulation and heavenly grace.

The point of Revelation 7 is to remind you of your future. This world is not the end or your final destination. Your place in that multitude around God’s throne is already secure because the Lamb has already shed His blood for you and forgiven you for all of your sins. You just don’t see it completely yet.

Because the devil is still prowling around—trying to get you to run away from God’s gifts of forgiveness and heaven, and to choose sin—and eventually hell—instead. He’ll try to make sin look attractive, and your sinful flesh will want to cooperate and choose the sin over grace and the Promised Land. He’ll try to make you doubt God’s presence and believe you’re God-forsaken and already in hell.

Revelation 7 is written to Christians, to people just like you who are being ground into a fine powder by suffering, by trial, by tribulation. And compared to you and your strength and abilities, the tribulation you face is extremely great.

But Jesus is greater, and here’s the proof: all of the tribulation you face is a result of sin and designed to lead you to death. But Jesus has already conquered death. He’s emerged from the tomb, never to die again; and if He’s conquered the greater enemy—death itself, He is certainly greater than the tribulation that afflicts you.

So dear fridends, by the grace of God, hold fast in Him. This time of tribulation will cease, because it is already defeated. Everything that has power to separate you from God has been nailed to the cross. Eternal life in His glorious presence is already yours, where there will be no hunger, thirst, scorching heat or any other suffering anymore.

Someday, you will be there, because Christ has taken away your sins. Someday, God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

One of my favorite hymns is "The Church’s One Foundation;" and among my favorite verses:

Though with a scornful wonder, men see her sore oppressed
By schism rent asunder, by heresy distressed
Yet saints their watch are keeping: their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Those saints who cry "How long?" are in heaven. But that should still be your prayer, too, because it certainly is a good one. You can and should pray that the Lord would come quickly and deliver you from tribulation. But however long the Lord tarries in His wisdom and mercy, you have the vision of Revelation 7.

My friends, you know the rest of the story, especially the end. Eternal life—deliverance from every sin and every consequence of sin—is yours, Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
Go to top