Revelation 7:9-17 (All Saints’ Day)
“The Church Triumphant”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 1, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text from God’s Word is our First Reading for All Saints’ Day, from Revelation 7:
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, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 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, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 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. 15 “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. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 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.”
How “triumphant” are you feeling today? Did you wake up this morning with unbridled passion and joy for the Lord because you are victorious in Christ? You came to this Divine Service this morning filled with hope and peace and . . . Well, if you did, you sure don’t look like it now? You look tired. And no, I don’t mean sleepy tired because you had an extra hour of sleep last night. I mean that you look tired—spiritually tired, beaten down, and worn out. Is that more accurate than saying how triumphant and joyful we are? I believe it is.
You woke up again today with the bones and body aching. The medical issues that have been troubling you are still there. You wish you felt like yourself again for even a day.
You came to worship today still depressed or filled with anxiety. You hide it well from most everyone, but it’s always there waiting to trouble you.
You stopped at the gas station on the way here and put a few dollars’ worth of fuel in the tank. That’ll have to get you through the week. Your financial situation is constantly a troubling part of your life.
You know you’ll be at school tomorrow and he’ll be there. You really like him. Your desires for an intimate relationship are a great temptation, and you know he won’t refuse to be sexually intimate with you. You know you should avoid him altogether. But those tempting feelings are so strong and cause so much trouble in your conscience.
Happy Monday, back in the office. She’ll be there. She’s always there. You bow your head to thank God for your lunch, and she’s there mocking you to your coworkers. You gave up reading your Bible app on your phone because she made your life so miserable about the fact that you were a “holy roller” and the rest of the office wasn’t good enough to be in your presence. She watches your every move just so she can point out your sin when you screw up. The stress is starting to pile on.
Obviously I cannot illustrate all the things that take away from the joy and triumph and hope of being in Christ. I’ve chosen these to be reflective of some of the things that I know are at play in your lives. If we are honest, then, there’s not a lot of moments when we hop out of bed or go to work and play feeling triumphant and victorious in Christ. The reality is that we feel pretty beat up by life in this world with all its troubles. You and I do suffer in this world of sin the ravages of tribulations. We are the ones who are under attack by the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. We lose hope. We lose confidence.
In our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount Jesus preaches, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34 CSB) In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus reminds us that tribulation is out there just waiting to destroy the joy of faith where that faith doesn’t have enough root (Mark 4:17). Paul in Romans simply assumes troubles and tribulations, including persecution, are going to be there as a part of life in a sin-filled, fallen creation. No Christian has immunity from severe suffering of body, mind, or spirit. The Christian, in his or her tribulation, will experience such pain and fears and threats to life and faith so much so that the depth of his soul is scorched in the fiery trial.
That’s why you’re tired. You’re beaten down and worn out. You suffer. You struggle. You endure. You fight on. And the attacks come—the consequences of sin, the assaults of the devil, the world, and your own flesh. Feeling triumphant? Probably not.
John wasn’t feeling particularly triumphant at this point in our text as he was receiving the revelatory unveiling of Jesus Christ. He had looked at some horrifying things as the first six seals of the seven-sealed scroll were opened. These are scene that melt a person’s heart like wax in awe and terror at what Jesus revealed. How much can a person take? Aren’t you asking the same this morning? “How much more can I take?” So Jesus gives John an interlude between the opening of sixth and seventh seals. It is a vision of comfort for him and for you. The Lord is saying, “Look what your future in Jesus holds, dear John. Look what your future in Jesus holds, dear Christian.” Triumph! Victory!
Our text is a visual presentation of what you have to look forward to. Standing before God the Father’s throne, standing before the very Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, are an uncountable number of people from every ethnicity, tribe, people, and language. They are wearing white robes and waving palm branches—that’s a picture of a victory celebration. They are singing a victory song, “Salvation belongs to our God, to Him who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! It’s His salvation and He’s given it to us!” To this the very angels of God give their assent, Amen—Yes, yes, it shall be so!”
And who are they—the members of this countless mass of people in white, waving the victor palm branch? They are the people that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, washed clean with His crimson blood. They are you. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout all ages and all places. John was viewing, and also allows us to see, the result of Christ’s triumphant victory on earth. This untold number of people, you and me included, is victorious because of the blood of the Lamb. Because of the redeeming death of Jesus Christ and because He, the risen and victorious Lamb of God presents them to the heavenly Father, the crowd of people stands pure and holy in the presence of God. With sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus, and now covered with the righteousness of the Lamb Himself, they share in the triumph, in the victory of the Lamb before their heavenly Father.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His holy, precious blood, covering over the sins of all people. In His sacrifice, Jesus took on Himself our sins and gave us His flawlessness. Because Jesus is sinless, He fulfilled the Law perfectly as only He could. He kept all of the Father’s commandments. It is His shed blood that covers the flaws and imperfection of God’s sinful creatures. Through Christ we come into full perfection. His perfection is ours. His righteousness is ours. His victory is ours!
The scene in Revelation 7 is your victory! It is your triumph! Your sins have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ, poured out for you on the tree of the cross. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The Lord Jesus “has clothed [you] with the garments of salvation; he has covered [you] with the robe of righteousness,” His very own righteousness and holiness so that you stand before God pure and holy (Isaiah 61:10). You share in Jesus’ victory over the devil, the world, and flesh. Your sins are forgiven. You have eternal life. It’s yours by grace through faith in Jesus.
This triumph and victory that Christ reveals in His Word is for your special comfort as you experience whatever tribulations sorely test your faith and patience. You are the recipients of God’s grace in Jesus. You hold to Christ in repentance and faith, having your garments “washed” and “made white” in Jesus’ blood by means of His Word and Sacrament. And your future holds the promised victory of Jesus. Made clean by His blood, forgiven and redeemed, covered in His own holiness, you will stand before the throne of God triumphant! You will stand before Jesus victorious because of Him! For eternity you will serve the Lord day and night in His temple—in the new heaven and new earth where He will dwell with His victorious people forever. There you will be sheltered by God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—personally, face to face. You will never again be scorched by the fiery trials and troubles of this life.
How “triumphant” are you feeling now? With the comfort of the Gospel proclaimed to us, we are able to rejoice and celebrate the victory that Jesus has already won for us! Christ’s blood-bought forgiveness and love, mercy and grace revive us now in the midst of our troubles. His Word of comfort assures us that the troubles we face today are not our end or our future. Our future is with Christ in glory, in victory, under the Father’s divine protection forevermore. Receive this Word of comfort and look forward to the triumphant day when all things are new in Christ. Amen.