************ Sermon on Revelation 7:10-14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 25, 2008
"The Great Multitude - Part II"
We've been looking at the church triumphant in heaven as we have been answering the question at the end of Revelation 6, the question asked by those who hate and fear the judgment of God as the sixth seal is opened by Jesus, the question of those who ask "who can stand?"
Remember what we learned last week about those who can stand?
(Rev 7:9) After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
I A Loud Voice
A John now tells us the activity of this numberless crowd in heaven. What John sees is worship.
Worship is a constant refrain in the book of Revelation. Remember that awesome vision John gave us of the heavenly throne room and of the worship of God in Revelation 4 & 5? In that vision John showed us the worship of the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and a countless number of angels. But now, for the first time, John pictures for us the church at worship.
B In telling us about the worship of the church triumphant, John starts off by telling us "they cried in a loud voice" (Rev 7:10).
Do you remember when else we heard a loud voice? We heard a loud voice at the opening of the fifth seal. Under heaven's altar were the souls of the Gospel martyrs. They called out in a loud voice for justice (Rev 6:10). But now in Revelation 7 the multitude cries out in a loud voice because justice has been given.
Why does the crowd in heaven cry out in a loud voice? Remember who is crying? "A great multitude that no one could count" (Rev 7:9). Imagine the roar of a crowd beyond counting. That is why John hears a loud cry.
C Also, they cried out in a loud voice because they are celebrating. They are celebrating the victory of the Lamb. They are celebrating their participation in that victory. They are the church triumphant and they are celebrating. Now, do you celebrate with a small, quiet voice? Of course not! You are loud. You are boisterous. You are enthusiastic.
Every once in a while someone tells me I am too loud from this pulpit. But I am talking about the Gospel. I am talking about the triumph of the Lamb. I am talking about the glory of the cross and the grave. I can't talk quietly about this. Nor can the crowds before heaven's throne.
D "They cried out in a loud voice." The Greek makes clear this is continuing action. It is not something done once. It is something done continually. It never stops. It never ends. Theirs is a worship that knows no deadlines.
II Celebrating Salvation
A Notice, too, the content of the multitude's worship. They celebrate salvation:
(Rev 7:10) "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."The triumphant church celebrates salvation. The triumphant church worships God for salvation. So far this should be no surprise. Isn't this the main theme of our worship as well? Yes, we praise and worship God for health, for life, for providence, for the beauty of creation; but, especially, we worship God for salvation.
B Notice, salvation is from God. It is of God. It belongs to God. It is His possession. It is His to give and His to withhold.
(Rev 7:10) "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."In every way, salvation is the work of God. It is not ours to accomplish. It is not ours to bring about. It is not ours to contribute to. It is in every way the sovereign achievement of God and the Lamb. This should humble us. We have nothing to offer, nothing to add, nothing to contribute. Salvation is from God and of God.
So, this means the church triumphant celebrates not their victory but God's victory. It is a victory chant because of the victory God and the Lamb have won for their people.
III The Angels' Response
A I want you to also notice the effects of the multitude's worship. The church's worship provokes a response of worship on the part of the angels. We are told in Luke 15 that the angels of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. How much joy do you think they have over the full number of the redeemed? Listen to what John writes:
(Rev 7:11) All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God ...
B How many angels are we talking about? Remember the number from Revelation 5: "thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand" (Rev 5:11). What a vast number of angels! These angels see and hear the church triumphant praise God for salvation. What do they do? "They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God."
C Every once in a while we sing a song antiphonally. The men sing one line, the women sing the next. Or, we sing a round – one side starts and the other side ends. This is what we have in front of us. The church triumphant starts a song and the angels finish it.
What the angels sing is very similar to what they already sang to the Lamb in Revelation 5. Listen:
(Rev 7:12) "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
D See the literary device John uses? He piles on nouns. The angels can sing just one word – "praise". Instead, they sing seven words. Seven. John's number of completion.
In the Greek, each word is preceded by the article "the." The praise, the glory, the wisdom, the thanks, the honor, the power, the strength." God deserves not just praise, but the praise. God deserves not just glory, but the glory. See what John is getting at? God deserves the most, the best, the utmost, the fullness, the completeness of all that can possibly be given to Him.
And for how long? "For ever and ever." That's a long time. That's a never ending time. God's people praise God for salvation. In response, the angels praise God forever.
E The Redeemed in heaven sing, the angels respond. Do you think the same thing is happening now? It should! Our worship today should provoke the praise and worship of the angels in heaven. Think about that as we worship.
Does our worship, does your worship, provoke the praise and worship of the angels in heaven? Some people who are sitting in church this morning would rather be elsewhere. Some people who are sitting in church this morning can hardly wait for the service to end so they can talk about some pet issue or theme. Some people who are sitting in church this morning have their mind a thousand miles away. Some people who are here this morning yawn or sleep their way through the worship service. Some people who are here this morning have come with tired bodies, distracted minds, selfish hearts, vibrating cell phones, beeping text messages, self-absorbed egos, stubborn pride, strained relationships, their own issues, and a concern with what others think. Do you think any of this provokes the praise and worship of the angels in heaven? Of course not!
IV The Great Tribulation
A So far, John has told us who is in heaven. He has told us about their worship. Now he wants to tell us why they are in heaven. He wants to tell us why these people are experiencing the full benefits of eternal life. He wants to tell us why they are able to stand in the Day of Judgment.
We can extend what John says. Why is the church in heaven? Why will you and I be there? Why are we among the multitude that John sees in his vision? Why are we able to stand?
In verse 13, one of the twenty-four elders asks John a question to which the elder already knows the answer. "These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?" John replied, "Sir, you know." The elder asks a question because he wants to tell John the answer. In fact, he can hardly wait to tell John the answer.
The elder gives John a two part answer to the two part question. "Who are they, and where did they come from?" "Why are they in heaven?"
(Rev 7:14) "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
B Those in the multitude that John sees, why are they in heaven? Why are they experiencing the full benefits of life eternal? John first tells us, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation ..."
What is the great tribulation? We need to let John interpret John. We need to let Scripture interpret Scripture. Remember what John said in the opening verses of the Revelation?
(Rev 1:9) I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.John says he was a brother and companion in the "suffering." The Greek word is "thlipsis." This is the same Greek word used in Revelation 7:14 for "tribulation." Whose "brother and companion" is John in tribulation? He is a brother and companion in the tribulation being experienced by the churches and Christians of Asia Minor. John writes,
(Rev 2:10) Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution (here is the Greek word "thlipsis" again) for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.A couple of verses later John mentions the death of Antipas, who was martyred for the Christian faith (Rev 2:13). He, too, experienced tribulation.
The Christians of Asia Minor experienced tribulation. Some were martyred. Others were thrown into prison. The churches were in danger of compromise and apostasy and materialistic seduction. Satan was attacking the churches and Christians of Asia Minor so they would lose or renounce their faith in Christ.
"Tribulation" is something John is experiencing. "Tribulation" is something the churches and Christians of Asia Minor are experiencing. Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble (here is the Greek word, thlipsis, again). But take heart! I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). Paul says, "We must go through many hardships (thlipsis) to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). So, "tribulation" is one of the marks of this present age. Tribulation is one of the marks of the time between the ascension of Christ and His return as Judge.
Tribulation is something we experience too. We may not be exiled like John. We may not be martyred like Antipas. We may not be stoned or whipped like Paul and Barnabas. But we, too, experience tribulation. Subtle tribulation. The Devil wants us to make compromises, to be seduced by prosperity, to abandon our beliefs. The Devil wants us to buy into secular humanism, to have a Sunday only religion, to mistakenly think religion is something private.
C Those in the multitude that John sees, why are they in heaven? Because they have persevered in their faithful witness to Jesus Christ – in spite of the tribulation they have experienced. Did you catch that? They are in heaven because they persevere! Isn't that what Jesus taught His disciples when He said, "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Mt 10:22)?
"Hold it," you might say, "aren't you teaching a "works' righteousness"? Am I saying that these people have earned their way into heaven by persevering in the faith? Am I denying that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? You need to remember the first vision of Revelation 7. That first vision tells us why those in heaven are able to persevere in the faith. They persevere because God preserves them, because God has sealed them for eternity, because God has marked them as belonging to Him. They are in heaven, then, because God's grace has allowed them to persevere. They are experiencing the blessings of eternal life because they have endured tribulation and maintained their faithful witness to Jesus. They are standing because they persevere!
Are you part of that worshiping multitude that John sees before the throne? You are, you can be, only if you are faithful to the end. You are part of that crowd if you endure tribulation and maintain your witness to Jesus.
V Washed their Robes
A Remember the elder's question about the multitude? "Who are they, and where did they come from?" Why are they in heaven? The first answer: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation." The second answer: "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:13,14).
We looked at the white robes last week. White, we said, symbolizes purity. How did their robes become white? They were washed in the blood of Jesus.
We can understand this imagery only in light of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, dirty clothes symbolize sin.
(Is 64:6) All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags ...Because of sin, we are clothed in filthy rags, dirty clothes, polluted garments. We read the same thing in the book of Zechariah:
(Zech 3:3-4) Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. (4) The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin ..."Dirty, filthy clothes symbolize sin.
Do you remember Jesus' parable of the wedding banquet (Mt 22:1-14)? One of the guests was improperly dressed. He was not wearing wedding clothes. He was thrown out into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is a parable of the kingdom of heaven. In other words, you do not get into heaven if you are clothed in sin; you do not get into heaven if you are not clothed in the white garments of purity.
We see the same principle at Mount Sinai. Israel has been delivered out of Egypt. She has crossed the Red Sea. God commands the people to surround the mountain. God announces that He is coming down on the mountain. But before He comes, the people must wash their clothes. What an image! Fellowship with God is dependent upon cleansing. Fellowship with God is possible only when His people are purified.
B Those in heaven "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14). This does not make sense, does it? I say that because blood normally stains. In fact, it is one of the hardest stains to get out. If I cut myself while shaving, I have to make sure the bleeding has stopped before I put on a shirt – or I am in trouble with the person who does my laundry. The blood of Jesus, however, whitens and purifies and makes clean.
Only by coming to Jesus can you be cleansed and purified. Only by coming to Jesus can you enjoy the benefits of heaven. Only by coming to Jesus can you be one of those who stand when everyone else hides in fear and trembling on the day of judgment (Rev 6:16-17).
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow'r?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless?
Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
"Who can stand?" In the Day of Judgment, who can stand?
We have heard two answers. A vision of the church on earth tells us that those can stand who have been sealed as belonging to God (Rev 7:1-8). A vision of the church in heaven tells us that those can stand who have endured tribulation and been washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:9-14).
No wonder they – with the angels – are celebrating salvation, no wonder they are rejoicing in victory, no wonder they are praising God:
(Rev 7:10,12) "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb" ... (12) "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
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