Are the Saints Guilt of Heavenly Schadenfreude?

Sermon Series in Revelation # 36 Revelation 19:1-5

1   After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality,  and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

3   Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

4   And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

5   And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” [1]


My family often listens to loud and energetic music while in the car. This last week I was embarrassed when I noticed the driver in the car next to me staring while I was pumping my fist and screaming the lyrics to one of my favorite CDs. I drove away a little more subdued.

God has made the human spirit with the ability to soar above the mountains in victory, and wallow in the pit of despair. As Christians we sometimes feel the weight of our sin, and other times we feel the victory of the glory of Christ.

And it isn’t natural to bottle up those strong emotions. An outburst of celebration is not embarrassing if your team wins a game. Or, when your child scores in life, or a game, or someone you love finally gets engaged. There’s a natural physical outburst that coincides with the bursting of your heart.

That can happen to us as individuals or as a group, but in Heaven it will happen to us all at the same time.

When we see the glory of God shining, no longer held back by our lack of faith and love for the world, our hearts will tell our mouths to shout.

We’re all going to sound very Pentecostal in that moment. We’re going to see the glory and shout! We’re going to see the beauty of the Church and shout! We’re going to see the demise of our lesser self and praise God.

We will all join together in this moment of celebration when God interrupts human history with His apocalyptic activities. And we will not doubt God’s judgments. We will declare them as righteous and true, good and noble, excellent and just. We will rise up to say so.

At the end of time, the time spoken about in this passage, the saints will no longer be divided between Heaven and Earth. None of us will be trudging the dust of this world while our brothers and sisters skip on the streets of gold in Heaven. None of us will be held down by arthritis or cancer while we consider our fellow saints already lifted up in glory.

When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

We will no longer have to participate in the shadow of what the Church could be. We will be overwhelmed by God’s love and the joy of our full and eternal salvation. At that time we will all shout our victory!

And you won’t be embarrassed as you consider your Presbyterian roots. There’ll be no regret for being loud in your worship. No one is going to stare at you while you shout words of praise to God. Everyone will be unified in their need to “let it out.”

There are three outbursts of celebration in our passage and then a command from the throne that we must praise God.

The theme of these shouts are in response to what has just happened in the previous two chapters.

In chapter 17 we saw the demise of the false church. She had gotten ugly in her quest to be blessed by the Dragon. She tried to ride the powers of this world for her own increase and glory, but in the end she was consumed by the same sins she should have been preaching against.

In chapter 18 we saw the demise of the false gods of this world: like materialism, power politics, sensual fashion, temporary delicacies or pleasures and every other common activity of life ceases as God brings this world into eternal accountability.

So there’s an initial silence and shock at what God does, yet the more we consider His apocalyptic activity of judgment, the more we can’t help but shout in praise for what His excellent actions of salvation and judgment mean for the saints in Heaven.

And this is where we might wonder if the saints in Heaven will be guilty of a shade of Schadenfreude.

Yes, Schadenfreude is that wonderful German term for those who experience wicked glee at the demise of others. If we see someone suffer, someone that we don’t like very much experience some well deserved pain, and our hearts feel malicious pleasure, gloating or spiteful joy, then we can be accused of Schadenfreude.

It’s Sh Ahh Den Froid eh. Fun word.

On the drive into church this morning my wife asked me to hold her diet Mountain Dew while she opened the can. Well, it lightly sprayed on my suit pants. She apologized and poured it into her cup. As she took her first sip the car bounced on the road. She looked over at me and said, “If it makes you feel any better, I just stuck the straw up my nose!”

She was inviting me to feel Schadenfreude as an equalizer for my trouble. But Schadenfreude isn’t love. Love doesn’t rejoice when others suffer.

Well, are the saints in this passage feeling that? Are we going to sin a little in our hearts while watching sinners receive God’s judgment?

What causes our hearts to shout in victory? There are at least three things that motivate their celebrations.

First, the glory of God will no longer be held back by the sin of people. The Dragon is an angel, but he is a person, and his influence over the course of history will be brought to an end. That’s going to make us all shout to God in praise.

Second, this moment will transition us from looking backward at our troubles, to looking forward to our Heavenly state. Heaven is watching us now.

Once we are all in Heaven and the world is judged, there will be nothing left for us to watch on the earth.

We are looking backward now,  but then a voice from the Throne commands us to look forward in praise to God as we consider the wedding of the Church to Christ.

And everyone, all the fullness of Heaven makes this transition from looking back at the mistakes of fallen angels and fallen humanity, to looking forward at the eternal union of God and His people.

A third reason the Heavenly Host celebrate is that we are getting ready for the celebrations of the wedding. The saints are the ones who have to start this worship and happy moment.

If you can remember back to chapter 5:8-14, the four most powerful and glorious angelic creatures within the Creation sustain the foundation of God’s ascended throne. Then there are 24 angelic elders who who encircle the throne. Outside that are the assembled peoples of God from every era of tribe, language, people and nation.

8 And when Jesus had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Notice that the Redeemed of the Lord worship first, and then the Twenty Four Elders, and then the Cherubim Angels under the Throne finish out the shouts of praise.

It’s like that in our passage. The whole Heavenly assembly cries out “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality,  and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

It is the Glorified and Victorious Church that first cries out “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And then, after we lead in worship, then the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

You might say that the mighty hosts of Heaven are led in worship by the least of these. The little ones lead the Angelic Host is praise to God. Those powerful angels wait for us to start worship and then they respond with the Amen and the Hallelujah.

Jesus said that if the redeemed delay giving praise and glory to God, that even the rocks would break the awkward silence in shouts of praise to God Luke 19:40.

The whole Creation, the Holy Angels and Heaven itself wait for the Redeemed to understand the magnitude of God’s love and salvation, for us to see His glory and righteousness, that we might lead all collected souls around the throne in praise to God.

Wow! That’s an amazing thought. How much more celebrating could there by the glorified saints, who watch our lives every day, if we spent more time in our hearts in praise to God?

When we say, “Praise God!” we hear the echo of Heaven say, “Amen and Hallelujah!”

I’ll admit, celebrating the demise of our fellow Earth travelers seems like a serious case of Schadenfreude, but we are really focused on God and His glorious activity, not their demise.

Will we feel justified in our joy to see the false church judged?

Let me illustrate it this way. On television and in the magazines we see advertisements for weight loss. There’s often two pictures. One before the weight loss and one after. Both pictures show the person wearing a bathing suit. Ultimate exposure.

Now after they have lost the weight and have gotten healthy, what do they do with those embarrassing before pictures. Well, I hope they don’t put them up on the fridge as a permanent reminder of their struggles. I hope they take them out to the Barbeque, spray some lighter fluid on them, and light em’ up.

Why would the Church celebrate the memory of Her failure? For a moment we look back and see the failing of our individual lives and the failures of the Church, and then we hear the call of God from the Throne to look forward to an eternity in union with Christ, we praise God that our times of struggles are past, and we celebrate our readiness to be united with Jesus.

The voice from the Throne is jarring. It shakes us out of our past and thrusts us into the future joys of Heaven. The river of life flows from the Throne. We immerse ourselves in the joys of Heaven forever and ever.

5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

And this will be one of our earliest experiences as a Heavenly congregation. We won’t be looking over the portals at our loved ones. We won’t be vexing over our many sins. We will be gathered together in the light of Jesus. No one will be left behind. We will lead Heaven in songs of praise and worship to God.

Friends, there’s a day coming when we will no longer be bound by our earthly limitations. We won’t be held by the cords of our own sins.

Today our spirit is willing and our flesh is weak, but in that day, our spirit will be so energized that our glorified flesh will cry out in unrestrained praise to God.

And all of Heaven will join the redeemed in worship. We will exercise dominion over the angels as we speak of God’s exploits and His righteous acts of salvation.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe in Jesus. Jesus said John 14:12 In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

As we finish our worship, and enter our congregational meeting, let your heart be strengthened, let your faith be enlarged, and let your mouth utter praises to God. Amen.


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


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