Preached: April 21, 2013
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit shows us the home Jesus has prepared for us is Revelation 7
After these things, I looked and there was a large crowd, which no one could count, from every nation, tribe, language, and people standing before the throne and before the Lamb. I saw that they were clothed in white robes and had palms in their hands. They were calling out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb.”
All the angels stood in around the throne, the elders, and the four living creates. They fell on their faces before the throne and bowed down to God, saying, “Amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
One of the elders said to me, “Those dressed in white robes -- who are they and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “Dear sir, you know.”
He said to me, “Those are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Because of this they are before the throne of God. They worship him day and night in his temple. And the One seated on the throne will dwell among them. Never again will they hunger. Never again will they thirst. Neither the sun nor any burning heat will ever fall on them. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to the watery springs of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
She had big dreams for her future. A career, family, even grandchildren some day. Her dream kept her working hard at school and then on the job. Days were often long and hard, but her dream kept her going. How did it turn out for her in the end? You never know in this life.
All of us know how a hope or dream can keep us going. But we also know the hurt of shattered dreams and the sting of disappointed hopes. So often reality rudely awaken us.
But, dear Christian friends, we share a common dream and hope that will not disappoint. In fact, as the reality of this world disintegrates in flames, this dream stands more permanent. The Lord showed the Apostle John a glimpse of this dream and through the words the Holy Spirit gave him, we too share this dream -- the dream of where the Lamb leads us. That's the theme today. And as we gaze at where the Lamb is leading us, we see that we will be delivered from this present tribulation and we will be forever dressed in blood-washed robes.
“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 KJV), the Apostle Paul told the new Christian in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch on his first missionary journey. And how aptly that word describes this present existence. Tribulation. Ever since the fall into sin, we have been hard pressed on every side. By the sweat of our brow we eke out each day only to struggle the same the next day until we return to dust.
The events of the past week again remind us what a mirage the peace and happiness of this world is. Two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston marathon killing three, maiming and wounding many others -- our sense of safety and security ripped apart. Two days later an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, left at least fourteen dead, including first responders, and destroyed dozens of homes. How many hopes and dreams shattered when all you have is swept away or a loved one doesn't come back?
But why do these things surprise us? It's almost as if we expect this world to be halfway decent. Then when there's a tragedy, we're caught off guard and wonder how something like that could happen. Or on a more personal basis, we expect life to treat us somewhat fairly. Then when others are unkind to us or our dreams don't work out, we feel hurt, rejected, hopeless.
But why are we expecting any good from this world? It's in open rebellion against God. From Genesis three onward all creation groans in bondage to decay. Even God's greatest blessings, like sharing in his creative work by giving birth to a child, became filled with pain and sorrow. This life is tribulation. And don't forget that even your fellow Christians still have a powerful sinful nature in them. Don't be surprised if at times they treat you unkindly. This life is tribulation.
Yes, this life is a dreary desert with the hot sun beating down on us. Don't be surprised at adversities and troubles, just as the burning heat and the scorching sand in a desert shouldn't surprise us. At times God may blesses us with a little oasis. And certainly, dear Christian, let his blessings in this life gladden your heart and bring you happiness. Give thanks for them and gratefully use them. But don't build your joy on them. For the oases of this life all pass away. Don't build your hopes and dreams on what this life might give.
Revelation vividly pictures the tribulations of this dreary desert: wars, famine, poverty, disease, death, persecution, and, worst of all, false doctrine blotting out the light of the Scriptures. And when tribulation strikes, the blindness of mankind sees it as a rallying cry for us to come together as the human race, that working together we can overcome. With the indomitable spirit and fortitude of humanity, we can make our world a better place. You've heard the rhetoric. But notice how God is left out. Or maybe they mention him but merely as a cheerleader on the sidelines to root us on. All such dreams will crumble and burn.
Don't dream of what this world could be. Don't dream of how much better your life here could be. Dear Christian, dream of where the Lamb is leading you. The human race working together cannot rescue this world or save it no matter what kind of tower of Babel it builds. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10 NIV84). That's our rallying cry, dear Christians. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10 NIV84).
Dream of where the Lamb is leading you. For praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength are his forever and ever (Revelation 7:12). No matter what the tribulation, he is greater. He is stronger. He is wiser. No matter how hard your day, how heavy your burden, or how disappointed and despairing you feel, dream of where the Lamb is leading you.
For, dear friend, from the four corners of the earth, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, he will bring his own out of this great tribulation to stand before his glorious throne. Yes, you dear Christian, will be among those dressed in white robes who are coming out of the great tribulation to your heavenly home. Dream of where the Lamb is leading you. He will deliver you from this tribulation.
But how can a sinner like me or like you have white robes? All our righteous acts, the best that we do, are only filthy rags, corrupted, stained, and polluted by our sin. How can we dream of ever being in heaven?
You know the answer, dear friends. Because of the Lamb. “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” (Revelation 7:14 NIV84).
All our scrubbing, all our effort, all our striving cannot wash out the stain of our sin. Our own efforts to make ourselves right before God just grind in the filth all the more, making us think that maybe it will be good enough. The tribulations of this world should pound into us how hopeless we are without the Lamb.
But his blood -- the Lamb's blood -- washes our robes whiter than snow, whiter than any detergent or bleach could get them. For the Lamb's blood is the blood of our God, Jesus Christ. His holy, sinless blood cleanses us from all sins. His righteous blood covers us with the holiness that God requires. How precious his blood, which he actually gives you to drink in the Lord's Supper! There he promises you, just as he did at your baptism, that his blood washes you clean. Dream of where the Lamb is leading you. For he has dressed you in blood-washed robes. In heaven, it will be said of you: “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” (Revelation 7:14 NIV84).
Notice how this dream gives us unflinching courage and out-of-this-world strength to face the tribulations of this world and to press forward faithfully following the Lamb, following him through this dreary desert no matter how scorching the heat of the sun. For our hopes and dreams are not built on what this world can offer. Rather our hopes and dreams are built on the blood-washed robes the Lamb has given us. Dressed in them you will stand before his throne in glory. So don't let the hardships of this life get you down. Dream of where the Lamb is leading you. Don't let disappointed hopes make you give up. Dream of where the Lamb is leading you. Don't let sin deceive you so that you stray away. Dream of where the Lamb leads you. Follow him. Listen to his voice. Serve and obey him. For look at where he is leading you!
You will be 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 you. Never again will you hunger; never again will you thirst. The sun will not beat upon you nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be your shepherd; he will lead you to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. (Revelation 7:15-17). Dream of where the Lamb is leading you. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.