Join a Network that's Bigger and Better than Facebook — Revelation 7:9-17

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 18

Revelation 7:9-17
English Standard Version

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 honor 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.” [1]


 

In February of 2004 a couple of Harvard college students created a book of pictures to help freshman learn the names of their classmates. Their idea was to make the book digital, and to put it on the internet, so that new students would be able to see the faces of their classmates and learn their names faster.

They called it Facebook.

Within two weeks students in thirty other area colleges asked for the same service. Within six months they had half a million dollars of investment capital which quickly expanded their reach. That same year that they started, in 2004, they received 12 million more in new investment dollars and quickly expanded all over the world.

Eight years later, they have grown to almost a billion people every month who log in to their Facebook account to stay connected with their friends. It is the biggest connection, the biggest network of humanity, on the planet.

Well, except for God’s. God has also organized a network. It is bigger. We are connected. We share in the community of the saints. Jesus has invited us to share in the same communion with the Father that Jesus maintains with the Father.

We are counted out like military divisions and battalions in the 144,000. We are enlisted in God’s army. We are ready for battle against the Gates of Hell while on the Earth.

By faith we are the 144,000. We are engrafted by faith into Abraham’s family tree. We are the people of God. We are the chosen race, a holy priesthood and a holy nation.

We are protected from God’s wrath. No weapon fashioned against us can stand. Spiritually we are marked with God’s own name on our foreheads. That means that we are baptized and marked by a holy life.

And God wants us to see ourselves like He sees us. We are His children. We are the Bride of Christ. We are the blessed ones and we are His beloved.

In the mind of God we are already seated with Jesus at the right hand of the throne of God and waiting to rule over the Creation, including the angelic realm, once we are glorified with our resurrected heavenly bodies.

The more we see through God’s heavenly perspective, then the more we will be motivated to live for Jesus today. The more we see heaven, then the more we will want to lay up treasures there. The more we love and treasure our fellowship with God, then the more we will be willing to be poor in the things of this life.

We are soldiers of the cross now, but in heaven we are the blessed children of God. On earth we are deployed in enemy territory. In Heaven we are not counted because there are too many of us. On earth we are one class of people regardless of our race, tongue or gender. In heaven we glorify God according to our diversity. Very interesting.

If we can get in our mind that chapter seven is describing one group of people in two different places, then we will solve much of the mystery of this chapter.

John heard the number on earth, but he saw the multitude in heaven. What did he see?

John sees the people who are able to stand in the day of God’s wrath. Contrary to the fears of Earth dwellers at the end of chapter six, there are people who will stand in God’s presence.

How many will stand? Will there be more than a few? A few hundred? A few thousand? No. God’s grace and love is unsearchable. There will be so many that they can’t be numerated. Like the sands of the sea or the stars in the sky, there’s just so many people.

There are folks from every common ancestry or tribe. The masses of the earth are there. There are people standing before God from every separate language group that we could identify on the Earth. No one is left out.

Heaven will be more inclusive than the worship that happens in churches today. There tends to be a common ethnicity within churches of our size, but even in the bigger churches the diversity isn’t as beautiful as what we see in Heaven.

Language will not be an impediment for worship in Heaven. I remember traveling to the small city of Smolensk in Russia to do evangelism with a small group from college. I preached and our group did choral music. We started our events with a brass ensemble to attract a large crowd. Things worked smoothly until the sermon which had to be interpreted. We organized street evangelism in seventeen different countries. We could do a dozen worship events every day where we attracted a crowd and then shared the Gospel. But the big hindrance was always the language barrier.

There will be no language barrier when we get to heaven. Our various languages will not be a hindrance. We will worship shoulder to shoulder with believers from Pakistan where there are over one hundred thousand Associate Reformed Presbyterians whom you will have the pleasure to meet in Heaven.

We will worship side by side with Arabs, Armenians, Africans and Albanians. We will worship alongside the Chinese, the North Koreans, Iranians and Cubans.

Our glorified diversity will not be hidden. No political correctness in Heaven. We will be known by our particulars. Really? You bet!

While we retain our diversity of background, our standing before God is equalized. None of us will have on expensive black wingtips while our neighbor wears cheap flip flops. The rich won’t be wearing a suit while the poor wear shorts and a tee-shirt. No designer dresses. No designer shoes.

Our standing before God will be equal. Our only hope and plea is in the righteous good works of Jesus Christ. Only the obedience of Jesus can get our feet on the solid rock. Only the actions of Jesus earn merit with God.

There are no levels of glory like in the Olympics with the gold, silver and bronze levels.

We will be equally robed in the good works of our Savior. These are robes of sinless perfection. These robes are for the people who have overcome and are now enabled to stand in the very presence of the Living God at the last day.

We will not be running from God’s face. We will not be calling for the rocks to fall on us or for the sea to swallow us up. We will have no fear in God’s Holy presence. Instead, we will find our dancing shoes.

Israel used palm branches to celebrate a great military victory. After being delivered from their enemies the crowds would wave palm branches as their savior entered back into the city.

These people are not enjoying quiet contemplative worship. This is more like being at a  stadium when your team wins. There’s cheering, dancing and shouting.

The saints rock the house in verse 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

We are going to shout and cheer and praise the Lamb of God like we were watching our favorite team win the world series. You will not have any inhibitions to praise God. You will not wonder who might hear your voice. You will not want to remain silent. Every part of your soul and glorified body will be bursting with praise to the Lord on High.

And in that eternal city we will stand in God’s presence without fear. The angels will not stay  standing. They are not robed in the same sinless perfection that Jesus has shared with the saints. They will fall down on their faces. While prostrate before the throne they will cry out Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.

Verse 12 sounds like it could be in our bulletin at the end of a sermon. Maybe even better placed after the final benediction. Like a congregational response. Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen

Our worship in Heaven is going to be so great! We will be so blessed. It will be so much fun.

Our passage now includes some dialogue. John’s heavenly tour guide asks a question to make sure that John can rightly identify the multitude. John responds that he knows, but he would like his guide to tell him anyway.

And the Greek doesn’t clearly translate into the English. The elder says, “These are they that come,” or “these are the coming ones.” John is seeing the procession of saints coming out of their tribulations on Earth and into the bliss of Heaven. John is watching the progression of saints from one place to the other.

And this elder sees their tribulation as great even when compared with the past tribulations. Saints who were burned as candles to light the city of Rome do not speak condescendingly of the trials that Americans endure when taking a stand against the moral hazards of our time. We all suffer. We all bear a cross for Jesus.

All saints will endure persecution if we speak up for God in a godless culture. And John sees the church as it shall be at the end. These tribulations increase as these last saints enter Heaven’s gate.

And only those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb will be permitted entrance. How does anyone get before the throne of God? By being washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Oh precious is that flow, that makes me white as snow, no other font I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

And as you enter the pearly white gates God Himself will transform your temporal sadness into joy everlasting. A great peace and calm will enter your soul as you realize that God himself will provide protection and shelter for your eternal well being.

You will never again hunger. You will never again be thirsty. You will never again have the heat of the day beat you down into the dirt. Weariness will not wrap around your body. Pain will never again be your companion.

And He who sits on the throne will be your shepherd. You will never have any want. He will lead you to shady green pastures. He will guide you to the quiet waters. He will restore your soul and keep you in the path of righteousness for His name sake.

You will never face the shadow of death for Jesus holds the keys of death and hell. You will never fear evil for God’s rod and staff will comfort you. God will prepare a table of His goodness and provision that will never run out. He will anoint you with health and His blessing. Your cup of happiness will over flow.

God’s goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That’s Heaven. It is an innumerable community of glorified believers.

Facebook brags to have about a billion people. God’s social network is bigger and better. We are already connected with each other and God. We will see Him face to face. We will know Him and walk in the blessing of our Heavenly Father forever.

And if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ then John already saw you in that Heavenly vision. You are already there in the mind of God. It is your settled destiny. No problem in this life can cast a shadow to diminish the glory of that final destination. You have a date with God who will wipe every tear out of your eyes.

God is inviting us to be apart of His eternal celebration. Let’s look to Jesus and be ready.


[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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Live in Gwinnett, GA next to Lake Lanier Islands. Married with four children. Pastored three churches over 18 years. Spent time serving as an Army Chaplain. Traveled in ministry to over 34 countries. B.A., M.A., M.Div., M.A.T.S., D.Min. BCC with NSC. Covering Georgia and upstate South Carolina

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