Monday, November 07, 2011

Sermon on Revelation 7:9-17, for All Saints' Day, "For All the Saints"

Sermon Outline

  1. We believe that those who have believed in Jesus Christ, have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb of God, are standing together at God’s throne worshipping. Continuing the song of praise they began in this life—salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb. Alone can save.
  2. Distinct beings in heaven—separate classes of angels, four living creatures, and the saints and elders (humans gone to heaven). Contrast to sentimental notion that we become angels when we die.
  3. Saints clothed in white—through the tribulation, washed in the blood.
  4. They serve God day and night in His temple
  5. God shelters the saints: no hunger, thirst, no scorching heat. The Lamb is the Shepherd. Interesting merging of metaphors—the Lamb of God was Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins. But as the Shepherd, He leads and cares for His flock. Psalm 23, guiding them to springs of Living Water.
  6. God is wiping away all tears from their eyes.
  7. Sorrow in this life can be inexpressible. Who can comfort our sorrows as God can? Yet here in life we still often have the feeling of separation from God. We know that God is everywhere, that He is omnipresent—but what comfort does that bring someone if they don’t know where or how they can grab ahold of Him (or rather, where they can be assured that God has grabbed ahold of them)? In the water of baptism, you were washed and God’s name was placed on you. God began an ongoing relationship with you as Father to dearly loved child. In the Word of God, He speaks directly to you, for the repentance of your sins and forgiveness in Jesus. In the Lord’s Supper, you receive His body and blood in your hand and mouth. God is there for us to grab ahold of Him. He holds us securely in His arms, so that nothing, not even death can snatch us out of them.
  8. Who can count the saints? They are innumerable, they will shine like the stars in the heavens (Daniel 12:3). Do you ever think about the fact that while we are worshipping in church, we are not gathered merely as the 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100 here, but we are gathered in the presence of God, and we join in the heavenly songs of worship that are being sung by that multitude of saints around the throne.
  9. What makes a saint different from those who are not? The measure of a saint is not their perfection of life; because all the saints were and are also sinners. The measure of a saint is that they trusted in God. The word saint means “holy one”. But holy not because of their good works, but holy because Jesus cleanses us and makes us holy. The white robes of the saints in the vision of heaven are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Come now let us reason together… Holiness of life follows after faith in Christ. Saints in Christ do commit themselves to holy living, and seeking God’s path, despite their failures in this life. Saints can be remarkable for their life as redeemed sinners, but never perfect.
  10. Have you ever noticed how “musical” the book of Revelation is? That there are many scenes of worship and hymns of praise to God throughout? Some of those hymns have even become part of the church’s song here on earth. Songs like “This is the Feast” or hymns like “Behold a Host Arrayed in White” or “Crown Him with Many Crowns” or “The Lamb” or “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” or “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” and many other hymns directly draw on the imagery of heaven and the words of praise found in the book of Revelation. The music in heaven is going to be glorious! Anyone who’s seen or heard a song festival, or great choir of voices singing in beautiful harmonies, or resounding in powerful unison, and had that “chicken skin” or tingly feeling run up your back with joy, has experienced the power of music. You’ve had a small glimpse of what the heavenly worship will sound like. Martin Luther called music God’s second greatest gift, second only to theology—the study of God’s Word. Music has the power to “drive away the devil and make people cheerful…to forget anger, [impurity], pride, and other vices. [He placed] music next to theology and gave it the highest praise.” He believed that music must be taught in the schools, and that it made fine, skillful people. He felt that music should be taught to the youth so that they were “weaned from the love ballads and the sex songs, and instead of these, learn something beneficial.” He wanted music and the arts to be redeemed for God’s purposes, so that the faith could be sung into the hearts of the people, and be made memorable.(What Luther Says, p. 979-81). It has the power, Luther believed, and I do as well, to drive away fear and the devil.
  11. I think also that it is a lie put into our minds by the devil, that heaven will somehow be a boring, lifeless, or uninteresting. Perhaps this Bible passage has even been misunderstood to picture heaven as “eternal choir practice.” It does say that the saints will serve God day and night in His temple, but the picture of heaven is far from dull if you read the book of Revelation. It is a colorful, beautiful place of joy, life, celebration, feasting and song. To think that heaven could in any way be disappointing or dull is to wrongly assume that God who created us, who gave us the good and healthy desires for the good things and joys of His creation, would somehow not know what was good and best for us. It strangely imagines that God is “out of touch” with what would give the greatest joy and peace to the people that He minted in His own image. Nothing could be further from the truth! We only know glimpses and shadows of what heaven will be like, but as Paul wrote, we see now as in a mirror darkly, but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). There’s much we can’t even grasp or understand about what heaven will be like. But there is one thing that we can be sure of—that it will be Paradise! That it will be the unsurpassed joy of knowing God face to face, having no more suffering, and experiencing the world as it should have been. Experiencing the creation as God intended it to be, not as it has been corrupted through sin.
  12. Since eternity is forever, we sometimes might fear that it will be too long or drag on, or get boring. But the problem isn’t with what God has waiting for us in heaven, but the problem is with our own human flesh, and how we perceive it. Suspecting that heaven could ever be disappointing or boring is to doubt God’s power, that He would somehow make something inferior.
  13. Want to be a saint? Fear you can’t? Wash your robes in the blood of the lamb. Take the forgiveness Jesus freely offers through His blood shed on the cross and be washed clean. His is the purity, the innocence, the holiness that we wear as we join the heavenly throng of worshippers around the throne.

No comments: