Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, pt 2

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here. (I’m so sorry part 2 took so long.)

“Comfort, comfort My people,”
says your God.

Isaiah 40:1 (HCSB)

Comfort.

The Latin origin of this word is con-, meaning “with,” and -fortis, meaning “strength.”

Comfort. “With Strength.”

It’s something we all long for. And, given the rocky, trying experiences described in the book of Revelation so far, we need to be given strength. Luckily, John gives us precisely that in our passage today.

When we look at the picture of the church in Revelation 2-3, it is surprising that God would save anyone. And when we come to the judgments Jesus released in Revelation 6, it is a surprise that anyone would survive them. So, when we come to chapter 7, it is a word of great comfort!

John writes as follows in Revelation 7:9-17,

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!  All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God,  saying: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.  Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them:  They will no longer hunger; they will no longer thirst; the sun will no longer strike them, nor will any heat.  For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

This passage continues the experience from 7:1-8. In that passage, John heard about an angel sealing God’s people. In other words, John was assured of God’s protection of His people during their life on this earth. Nothing can touch them or snatch them away from God’s salvation and care (cf. John 10:28-29). In today’s passage, John shows us the culmination of God’s saving work by describing the final salvation of all God’s elect.

First, John assures us that God’s elect is a numerous multitude in 7:9-10

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

This is quite the crowd. Last time, John heard the number of this crowd, delineating that God intimately knows every single one of His people. This time, John sees an incomprehensible number of people, which shows us that even though the number is “limited” in God’s eyes, we should never put a cap on how many people God might save. We are not Jehovah’s Witnesses; God will glorify more than 144,000 people.

We can never count someone out from salvation, saying, “God did not elect him/her,” to excuse our failure to share the Gospel with that individual. The saints—this innumerable multitude, as we will see in verses 13-17—come from every nationality, every country, every race, every language, and even every imaginable sin-preference (prior to God’s work in their lives). We are fools if we try to say someone has not been chosen by God (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

If it wasn’t for God, no one would be saved! “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” In other words, God and Christ have the final say in who is saved and who is not. It’s not up to you!

Next, John describes the heavenly response to God’s salvific purposes in 7:11-12,

All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

John delineates the parties who praise God for His saving of the saints. The response is incredible.

“All the angels.” Revelation 9 describes a demonic army of 200 million horsemen. Revelation 12 describes one-third of the angels being cast out of heaven when Satan rebelled against God. There are more than 200 million demons, which means there must be more than 400 million angels praising God for His saving of sinful humanity. This is not to even mention the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders.

All of these fell facedown before God’s throne, praising Him for His salvation of the saints. There is a sea of prostrate bodies before God, reverently praising Him.

The first thing their praise is comprised of is a statement of agreement. The heavenly crowd says, “Amen!” In essence, they are saying, “God is in charge of salvation.” If there was any doubt about God’s rule in salvation based on what the redeemed mass of humanity had declared, the angels—those who have been with God since the beginning of creation—would say the same. Salvation belongs to the realm of God’s sovereignty. No one else can influence it.

Then the angels ascribe seven attributes to God. Instead of focusing on each one individually, i think, for the sake of time, it’d be better to just point out the occurrence of the number seven. They praise God for seven attributes. They’re praising God for His perfection.

Finally, John puts all doubt about the identity of this multitude to rest in 7:13-17,

Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them:  They will no longer hunger; they will no longer thirst; the sun will no longer strike them, nor will any heat.  For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The angel tells John that these are Christians coming out of the tribulation. Pay no mind to the word great. It is not a separate time in God’s redemptive plan (far off in the distant future). Instead, it is an adjective to draw our attention to the horrors through which God has preserved believers throughout time. Chapter 6 set forth six seals of judgment that affected every aspect of the social order, and Christians were preserved through them.

I think of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. It’s not about a guy named Great. The narrator—Nick—puts the adjective great on Gatsby’s name to draw attention to the man who was Jay Gatsby.

In the same way, John is drawing attention to what it was the glorified saints have just safely escaped.

The final three verses (15-17) are very similar to Revelation 21:3-4, which describes the glorified rest for believers after Christ comes back. This is important because it shows us that Revelation 7:9-17 is a picture that is synonymous with the New Creation. This is a look at our future glory in heaven. God will be more real to us at this time than ever before.

I can’t wait!
Do you look forward to this day?

But don’t try to argue it away. You might try to say, “Yeah, right! God’s not coming back. He’s not going to wipe your tears. You might as well live for pleasure now because once you die, you’re done.”

The problem with that line of thinking is that it acknowledges there is a problem—death—and then decides there’s no solution. It’s like saying, “Yeah, I have cancer; I’m going to die in six months. Guess I’d better get my bucket list finished.” All the while, your doctor is standing in front of you, saying, “If you follow these steps, and if you get these treatments, the cancer will be eradicated, and you can live for another decade or more.”

We get so focused on the here and now. Too focused on the here and now. Chemo treatments will cause pain, just like denying ourselves and following Jesus will lead to discomfort in this life. But following Jesus leads to eternal life, just like Chemo—in the example above—leads to an extended life.

Jesus experienced hunger. Jesus experienced thirst. Jesus took our sorrows in Himself. On the cross, Jesus took our cancer of sin in His own body. He did this so that we could be forgiven. He understands our sorrow because He was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (cf. Isaiah 53). Because He understands our sorrows, He can comfort us now, and in His presence one day, He will comfort us completely, perfectly, and finally!

But if you refuse to trust Him, there will be no comfort for you! Please place your trust in Jesus today! He will love you like no one else ever has or ever can.

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, pt 2

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