Revelation 7: 9–17 (Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb!)
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more,
neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne
will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them
to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away
every tear from their eyes.”
We live in a world of incredible medical and scientific breakthroughs.
Yet we all struggle with life, health, and death.
Tomorrow seems to be no better than yesterday.
How can we believe in a God while such struggles and sufferings exist?
John sees heaven with all the saints gathered before the throne.
What an amazing message to embrace – we get to see this every time we gather in worship.
How desperately the world needs to know that God is not the cause of their pain – but he is the answer to their endurance.
Our lives, lived in hope, bear witness to the God who is with us in our suffering.
Our lives bear witness to the one who makes all things new.
We live in a world of wonder and incredible medical breakthroughs. The common diseases that would have devastated communities, have immunisations and cures that stop such heartbreak. Medical science can replace most body parts and prolong life. Cancer rates, while on the increase, has seen a decrease in mortality rates. 100 years ago, you were lucky if you made it past 60. Today, it would seem, you’re unlucky if you don’t make 90. And yet we still struggle with life, health, and death. The lives we live see obesity rising at alarming rates, mental health is the silent killer as it soars out of control, and violence seems to be the new norm as people realise the frustration of living unfulfilled and unrealised lives. We live with the good, the bad and the ugly, and no matter what we try to do to overcome it, we seem to take one step forward and three steps backward. We like to think the world is better today than what it was yesterday, but tomorrow seems to promise doom and hopelessness.
Amid this, it is of little wonder people struggle to believe in a God who is good. Why would such a God allow children to suffer? Why would the same God sit back and allow people to kill the child before it is born? Why believe in a God when my world is crashing around me, I can’t seem to make ends meet, my goals of happiness and prosperity lie shattered around me, and death seems to haunt my life like a lack dog snapping at my ankles? For a long time, Christians were told that to ask such questions showed a lack of faith. I think that is wrong. The truth of being Christian is that we can ask such questions to a God who promises to hear us. More than that, we get to ask it to a God who become one with us, who endured it all, including death itself, and who rose to say see I conquer all things. He knows this struggle of life and death intimately, and promises to not just be with us through it, but to offer to us an alternative. In Christ, God offers us a return to the state he originally created, a life in his presence for eternity, where the struggles of life and death are replaced with life abundantly.
As John stands in heaven to see the promise of this life, he is asked about the multitude who stand before the throne of the lamb. John is unsure, but the angel reveals to him that these are those who have come through the great tribulation. At the time of writing this, it could have easily pointed to those being martyred for their faith. But today, it represents us. It represents those before us, those with us, and those yet to be born who live in a fallen and shattered world. Who, amid life’s struggles, found hope in Jesus Christ. It is this hope and faith in one who died and rose again that transforms our broken lives into the simple purity in which God originally created us. And here’s the wonder, we are sheltered by his presence, we don’t hunger or thirst, the harsh realities of life no longer torment us, and our tears are no longer for the pain we endure. Jesus fulfils Psalm 23 and shepherds us with grace and love beyond imagination. And our response is to cease looking to our own devices to find salvation and cure, but to look toward the lamb upon the throne, and declare to all that salvation belongs to him. An affirmation shared by all the heavenly hosts.
It is so easy for Christians to get lost in this world. The pain and suffering of life consumes us, and we shed tears of utter exhaustion as we grieve the loss life inflicts upon us. John’s vision was recorded, however, not so we may only see what is to come, but that we may find strength in the present. Jesus promises to never leave us. He has given to us his Holy Spirit. He draws us into his presence regularly. We come together as people who confess Jesus as lord and saviour each week. We gather not alone, but with Christians all around the world who come together in worship. Even more, as we are welcomed into his presence at the Lord’s Supper, we get a first-hand glimpse of what John saw, we dine with all the company of heaven. God does this, so we might find the strength and courage to face tomorrow no matter what it brings. He does this, so we can always fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. He does this so we, amid our troubled and suffering lives may cling to the truth that in Christ, God overcomes all thins so we may have life, and have it abundantly with him for ever.
The world around us is so busy trying to fix that which it has broken. It seems, however, that the harder we try the more we break it. It’s like squeezing a sponge, sure you drain the water from one part, but another gets saturated. It’s not that we shouldn’t try, but the world needs some perspective. The only one who fixes it is Jesus, and we who believe this have the joyful challenge of declaring it to the world. Yes, let’s be like Jacob and wrestle with God until we get answers, but know this, God invites you to do that because only he has the answer you seek. Jesus is this answer, and the joy of knowing this, and knowing that no matter what comes at us in this life we are never alone, Jesus is always there, should give us hope and joy amid our pain and suffering. Life is not easy, but we do not travel it alone. And those around us, those yet to meet Jesus, they too need to know that their life’s journey of struggle and pain is only ever possible when Jesus is I their lives. We are a people of hope. We are a people with eternity in mind. We know what it is to have the shepherd wipe away our tears. The world needs that same shepherd to wipe away their tears. They too need the same hope we have.