Made Pure by the Lamb
A sermon based on Revelation 7:9-17
Sunday, November 6, 2016 – All Saints Day Observed
After the worship service this morning, we're starting a new Bible Study on the book of Revelation. And I hope you can all stick around for it. But in this morning's lesson we'll see how the big picture message of the last book of the Bible is that God's people will suffer in this life, but how through Christ they will overcome and win the ultimate victory, if they will remain patient and endure the struggles they face without losing their faith.
This past Tuesday was All Saints Day. A day set we set aside in the church year to rejoice over those saints who have gone before us, who have endured the struggles of this life without losing their faith and have won the ultimate victory!
And this morning as we take a look at a portion of the last book of Bible, and observe All Saints Day, we rejoice that we are all saints through faith in Jesus, the Lamb of God, and by his blood that cleanses us of all our sin and makes us pure. And we are encouraged to remain patient then as we endure the struggles of this life without losing our faith. Then, one day soon, we will join all the saints in heaven.
Our text for consideration this morning is found in Revelation 7:9-17…
9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"
14 I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "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. 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 spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
I. Saints in Heaven
The Book of Revelation can be a frightening book. There are lots of warnings that describe how bad things will get in the end times (in which we now live), how much persecution God's people will face, and how hard God's enemies will fight to destroy our souls. But the Book of Revelation also contains some of the most comforting pictures and promises. This morning we get the latter…
What a sight John saw in this vision of heaven. He saw "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne [of God] and in front of the Lamb" that is, Jesus. John got a glimpse of the saints in heaven, "who have come out of the great tribulation," who won "and were holding palm branches"—a symbol of victory! And now they dwell with God himself in a place without hunger or thirst, discomfort or tears.
This vision was meant to encourage John and to encourage us. See the saints in heaven and how they won the victory and be encouraged to press on toward that victory yourself!
But how did they win? How were they victorious? Because they were so well behaved on this earth? No! They weren't saints by their own virtue. "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."
This past week my Latin II students learned a few new words—words that have to do with chores around the house. One of those words is purgo, which means "I clean." It's the same root from which the word purgatory comes—that fictional place in the afterlife where Roman Catholics teach that one must be cleansed of their sins before they can enter heaven.
But no such place exists. These saints didn't have to be purged of their sins before they went to heaven. No! They were already clean by the blood of the Lamb. The Apostle John wrote in John 1:29 how John the Baptist saw Jesus and declared, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" He described in John 19 how Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross and how, "one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood…" And in his first epistle, in 1 John 1:7, he wrote, "the blood of Jesus, [God's] Son, purifies us from all sin." No more purging was needed. The saints in heaven are sinless, spotless, and holy, made clean by the blood of the Lamb—that is through faith in Jesus' sacrifice for them.
Now, some of you have had to celebrate your anniversary without your spouse, because they've died. Others of you have had to bury your own child or endure the pain of a miscarriage. Almost all of us have lost grandparents, or parents, or friends, or all three, to death.
But for our loved ones who died trusting in Jesus' sacrifice for them… the day of their death was not a sad day for them, but the very best they'd ever had prior to that day by far! For on that day they got to stand, "before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple…" Jesus came and, "spread his tent over them." And from that day on, and for forever and ever, "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst… And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Rejoice in the ultimate victory of the saints in heaven, dear friends! And while it's certainly okay for us to weep for our loss, rejoice in their victory.
But don't stop there. Now keep growing in your faith. Keep studying God's Word. Cling to the promises you find there. And there, find the strength to endure without losing your faith until you win the ultimate victory too!
II. Saints on Earth
The reality is that we have not yet come out of the great tribulation. We're still in it right now. Tribulation, by the way, is just a fancy word for suffering, pain, and trouble. And that's what we have in this life, for now… but we too will overcome and we too will join the saints in heaven… if we're dressed right for it.
It was a five-star restaurant—you know the kind, where a shirt and tie are required. No tie, no food! And it was obvious to everyone at the restaurant that there was something off with the man who staggered into the establishment. For starters, he wasn't wearing a tie. In fact, he was a mess. His clothes were stained and he had a strong odor about him—of B.O., of booze, and of vomit. When he was told he had to have a tie to dine in that place, he started to throw a fit. And it wasn't long before security came to escort him out. He would not—he could not—enter that place the way he was.
That's the way that it is with God's heaven. If we're not dressed right, we can't get in. And friends, you know that we are not dressed right in our own filthy rags. Because every sin we commit leaves a stain on our souls. Every time we forget about the life to come and live only for this life, we put another disgusting stain on our rags. And so Isaiah rightly declared that, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…" (Isaiah 64:6)
I once ruined a perfectly good white dress shirt for the sake of a children's message. I asked the children if they knew why I wore a white robe every Sunday. And one of the kids gave a good answer when he said, "Because that's the uniform of a pastor." But I replied, "Yes, but I also wear it to cover myself up. Then I pulled back the corner of the robe to reveal my white dress shirt with a big stain of baby food—strained carrots, I think it was—that a 1-year-old Josiah eagerly helped me smear on my shirt before I came to church that morning.
Well, that's sort of what it's like for us. You may not have intentionally stained your clothes like I did that morning, but you have sinned, both accidentally and intentionally—knowing what God wants, but choosing something else. And those sins stain our souls and make us unacceptable before God. There's no way that we deserve to join all the saints in glory where everything is perfect and wonderful. No. We deserve to be kicked out of his heaven like that filthy drunk was kicked out of the five-star restaurant.
But… just as I'm wearing this white robe this morning, so that you have no idea what stains I might have on my dress shirt, so too, we all have been given a white robe in Christ that covers over all of the stains of our sins. And that robe is the robe of his righteousness. And that robe is a gift given to us, and nothing we have earned.
In fact, where the NIV says, "They were wearing white robes," the Greek literally says "They had been clothed in white robes." You see, the action is passive. They didn't put on these clothes themselves. Someone else put these robes on them. Someone else made them pure and holy. It's not something they did. It's not something they earned.
And obviously, you know who that someone else is: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb," the saints proclaimed. God, through Jesus, purged them and us—cleansed us!—of all of our sin. And it's not something we did or something we earned.
But now we are sinless, spotless, holy, and clean—already right now! We are perfect, sinless, saints through Jesus—washed clean by the blood of the Lamb! And so, as we celebrate All Saints Day, we rejoice that we are all saints today!
And since we know we are saints (even now), we know that one day soon, we will join all the saint in heaven and we too 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 [us]. 16 Never again will [we] hunger; never again will [we] thirst. The sun will not beat upon [us], nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be [our] shepherd; he will lead [us] to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes."
And so, we are encouraged to remain patient as we endure the struggles of this life—in whatever form they may take—without losing our faith. And one day soon, we will join all the saints in heaven in that perfect paradise. So serve God in thanks, remain patient in your struggles, and rejoice in the victory that is already yours! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.