Witness to Victory
4th Sunday of Easter – C LSB #478
Text – Revelation 7:9
After this I looked, & behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes & peoples & languages, standing before the throne & before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
WITNESS TO VICTORY
The book of Revelation is such an intriguing book of the Bible because it is filled with fantastic pictures. The images were not created with a camera, nor were they sketched by an artist with paint, or pencil or ink. They were painted with words.
In the 7th chapter of Revelation, St. John shows us two family photos. One is from earth, past & present, in verses 2 – 8. The other picture is from heaven, in verses 9 – 17, which was the Epistle reading for this morning.
The earthly photograph shows the Church in the midst of the battle between Lucifer & God. The Church on earth is in the midst of the tribulations inflicted after the opening of the 1st six seals of the Lamb’s scroll. This Church directory is filled with the suffering of the saints throughout time. Many of those are the Christians suffering around our world today.
Revelation 6 has Jesus opening the seals of the scroll. They symbolically depict the tribulation of life in a broken, sinful creation during the entire NT era. You & I are alive in that era today, & the opening of seal #6 culminates with Judgment Day. To the people of God it is a day of vindication & deliverance. To those who refuse to believe, it is purely a day of wrath.
Chapter 6 concludes with the ungodly people crying out to the mountains & rocks, “Fall on us & hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, & from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, & who can stand?” Justice is finally arriving for all the suffering they’ve caused through their unbelief in Jesus as the Lamb of God.
That 1st family photo of Revelation 7 begins the interlude between the opening of seal #6
& the opening of seal #7. It is a picture of all true believers during their time here on earth. It is the 144,000 as they are ready to carry out their mission & enter the valley of the shadow of death. You & I are part of that army of believers today. As we look around us in our lives, there are others to add to the number of God’s kingdom.
In this picture we are having Yahweh’s seal put upon us before we go into battle, & St. John finds comfort & encouragement in seeing God’s army being sealed. It means that no matter how much the people of God on earth suffer shall suffer, as we fulfill our mission, our Lord will protect us in our faith. After all, we are the people redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Our heavenly Father is in control of His creation, along with the tribulations & judgment coming upon the earth. A shrinking economy & corrupt bureaucracy & political system will not prevent our Lord from calling us as His own possession through the power of His Word & through Baptism.
Gretchen, Cliff, Joshua & Sarah have been called here by a God who loves them & blesses them each day. He will care for & protect His own. In the midst of trial, suffering, or gruesome martyrdom, the Church of God can take comfort that those sealed by the Holy Spirit with the sign of the victorious crucified & risen Christ will not be abandoned.
They have a future. That is what’s depicted in the 2nd family photo-op. The scene shifts there to the church triumphant, gathered before the throne of God & the Lamb. Those sealed in the victory sign have been delivered to the Father by the Lamb who is their Shepherd. It is a preview of the family gathering to come.
A sign that salvation belongs to God alone will be this great multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, & multi-racial crowd gathered at God’s throne. This family of God has a future because God has conquered in the fight & brought His people life & light. These have had their robes washed in the blood, & the good Shepherd will lead them to the fountains of the waters of life. The Word they heard, & which permeated their life in the waters of Baptism, & the food of the Lord’s Supper while they were part of the 144,000 on earth is now their eternal food & drink under God’s heavenly tent.
Both pictures – the Church of God in battle & the Church Triumphant – are a Witness to the Victory of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Book of Revelation was written, not so we could “decode” specific events of our day. It was given to strengthen & encourage those who follow Jesus when they struggled in difficult times or cultures.
As the prayer put it so well, earlier in the service, “Almighty God, merciful Father, since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name & follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.”
The pagan crowds will suck your soul right out of you, but not the crowd in heaven. You are not part of the crowd of the walking dead. You are part of the host of heaven, a newly re-created world of God’s eternal presence. Never forget which one defines you. Don’t allow Satan to define you. You can imagine how badly that will end up.
Jesus gives us life here, but it’s a difficult, broken life, seen only by faith, so we need today’s view of heaven too, our hope for the future. Easter is a few weeks past for this year, but the text from Revelation makes plain that the reality of new life is ever-present, now & until Jesus’ promised return & eternal reign.
In last Sunday’s Gospel reading, St. John wrote how the disciples fished all night & caught nothing. Then the Word of Jesus fills the nets! Heaven will be a celebration like that for all of eternity, forever & ever. Today, tomorrow, & the next day, whenever we lack anything, faith included, our Lord comes to us, supplies our need, & restores us to fellowship with Him. He points out our failures only so we can confess them, turn away from them, & turn back to Jesus. Whenever we struggle to confess our sins, it is always because we’re seeing the glass as half-empty. That is the thief at work, stealing, killing & destroying.
So last Sunday’s sermon showed us a vision of victory with the overwhelming catch of fish in the net. In today’s reading from Revelation, St. John shows us a picture of heaven:
“After this I looked, & behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes & peoples & languages, standing before the throne & before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, & crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, & to the Lamb!’”
Chapter 7 is one of the most important sections in the Book of Revelation. Saints in all ages need daily assurance of life everlasting in heaven. We so easily lose our courage & conviction. That Yahweh will dwell in the midst of His people is a fulfillment of OT promises in place like Ezekiel 37:27 & Zechariah 2:10.
“My dwelling place shall be with them, & I will be their God, & they shall be my people.” “‘Sing & rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come & I will dwell in your midst,’ declares the Lord.”
Because we know that our dwelling place will be with our Creator, forever & ever, we can live our lives with peace, contentment, generosity & unselfishness. That kind of living is a witness to victory. It’s a life that says, “The glass is half-full, rather than half-empty.” We can live that way, for the same reason St. Paul wrote these words:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18 ESV) We do well to remember that in the context & the background for all of Revelation 7, is Yahweh’s rescue of His people Israel from slavery in the land of Egypt. For this moment now, & for whatever time our future holds, whether that be only days, or be it weeks, years, even decades, Yahweh will also come to rescue us from our tribulations here on earth. He will then deliver us into paradise & eternal life.
“And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes & made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
& serve Him day & night in His temple;
& 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,
& He will guide them to springs of living water,
& God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:14b-17 ESV)
As a final touch, notice, & relish, the move from the endless, uncountable crowd to the tender individual attention of every tear being gently wiped away from every saint’s eye by God himself. The Christian life begins & ends personally & individually with your Savior’s call one on one (into faith & out of the grave). Christ is our witness to victory. Amen.
The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad, the Passover of gladness, the Passover of God. From death to life eternal, from sin’s dominion free, our Christ has brought us over with hymns of victory. Now let the heavens be joyful, let earth its song begin, let all the world keep triumph & all that is therein. Let all things seen & unseen, their notes of gladness blend; for Christ the Lord has risen, our joy that has no end! Amen. LSB 478:1, 3
Pastor Dean R. Poellet