The Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2019
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. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 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, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 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. 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. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 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.” (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of our Living Lord and Savior,
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
For many of us here today— including myself— Mother’s Day is simply not what it used to be. We can’t give our Mom a great big hug and say “Happy Mother’s Day!” We can’t call her on the phone to say “I love you, Mom!” We can’t send her flowers or a card or chocolates. The reason is because our Mom is no longer with us here on this earth. She has gone Home to heaven! Now if we were to dwell on what we can’t do this Mother’s Day, today would be somewhat sad. So, instead of dwelling on what we can’t do let’s focus on what we can do! We can show our love and appreciation to the mother of our children and the mothers of our grandchildren. We can think about all of the wonderful memories we have with our Mom. We can thank the good Lord for all of the blessings He gave to us through our Mom. We can focus our hearts on a portion of Scripture such as our text for today and rejoice— rejoice in the wonderful reality our Mom is now enjoying in our heavenly Father’s Home.
Home. Home Sweet Home. There’s no place like Home. No matter what words you use, the thought of being home simply makes our heart smile. Home is a place of peace and joy. Home is a place of safety and security.
If you can smile whenever you picture in your mind wherever you consider “home” to be, you will have no trouble relating to how I want to approach our sermon text for today. Last week we looked at a portion of John’s vision of heaven which focused our attention on the fact that the Lamb of God is “worthy” of our praise because He was willingly “slain” for our sins and now lives again for ever and ever! (Revelation 5:6-14) This morning our sermon text focuses our attention on the saints of God who have already joined the angels in heaven. Utilizing a comparison that I have often shared with you in the past, today let’s study this portion of John’s vision under the theme: Welcome Home! As we use this portion of God’s holy Word to peer through the window of our heavenly Father’s Home we will address three questions. First, who is there? Second, why are they there? Third, what is it like to live there?
As we peer through the window of our heavenly Father’s home this morning we begin by asking: Who is there? Who do we see? Look at the opening words of our text. John writes, “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.”
While we are here on this earth it is not unusual for us to feel rather lonely, is it. While we are here on this earth it is rather easy for us to feel that as a child of God we are completely outnumbered. When we are at work or at school or out in our community it is sometimes rather obvious from the way people talk and from the way they live their life that they do not believe and trust in our crucified and risen Lord. When we come here to church we might look around at all the empty seats and just sigh. But as we peer through the window of our heavenly Father’s Home isn’t it wonderful to see that the saints in heaven make up a “great multitude that no one could count”? This portion of John’s picture of heaven reminds us of the promise that the Lord made to father Abraham so many years ago. When Abraham was still childless the Lord God took him outside and said to him, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars— if indeed you can count them…So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). No matter how lonely we sometimes feel here on this earth isn’t it absolutely wonderful to know that when we get Home to heaven we will never be lonely again! Isn’t it wonderful to know that when we get Home to heaven we will join that “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language”!
As we continue to peer into the window of our heavenly Father’s Home and as we see the great multitude of saints “standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” the next question that goes through our mind is: Why? Why do they get to live there? Look at verses 13 & 14 of our text. John writes, “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes— who are they, and where did they come from?’ 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.’”
For a long time now I have been teaching people that heaven is indeed God’s Home. Just as you have every right to determine who will and who will not be allowed to live in your earthly home, so also God has every right to decide who will live in His Home and who will not. Then I ask people to picture themselves standing at the door of the heavenly Father’s Home and hearing Him ask them one question. The question is— Why should I let you live in My Home forever? There is only one correct answer. If someone answers incorrectly the God of heaven will say to them, “Depart from me” (See Matthew 25:41). If someone answers correctly the God of heaven will say to them, “Welcome Home!” (See Matthew 25:34)
The only correct answer to that question, my friends, the only answer which guarantees that a person will hear the Lord say, “Welcome Home!” is the very same answer to our question this morning, the very same answer to the question John was asked here in our text: “These in white robes— who are they, and where did they come from?” What is the only correct answer to that eternally important question? The answer is: Because Jesus, your Son, lived and died and rose again for me!
When God the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Jesus as our only Savior from sin— whether that was as an infant through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism (See Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 3:4-5; I Peter 3:21-22) or as an adult through the power of God’s holy inspired Word (See Acts 8:26-40; Romans 10:17; I Peter 1:23) when the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Jesus as our only Savior from sin He dressed us in a beautiful white robe of perfect righteousness. (See also Isaiah 61:10) That robe of righteousness— the robe that Jesus secured for us on the cross of Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) — guarantees that we will live in our heavenly Father’s Home forever! In fact, my friends, Scripture assures us that everyone who dies trusting in Jesus as their only Savior from sin immediately hears their Savior God say to them, Welcome Home!” (See Romans 10:13) Isn’t it wonderful to peer through the window of our heavenly Father’s Home and with the eyes of faith see the faces of the people we love, wearing their white robes of righteousness and standing in that “great multitude that no one could count”! Isn’t it wonderful to know that because of the robe of righteousness that God has given to us that one day we too will join them! What joy and peace and comfort that glorious sight brings to us!
That leaves just one question, doesn’t it. Once we see who is in heaven, once we see why they are welcomed into our heavenly Father’s Home the question that comes to mind is: What is it like living in heaven? Look at verses 15-17 of our text. To try and help us understand what our loved ones are experiencing in heaven right now and to help us understand what we will enjoy when the good Lord welcomes us Home to heaven I would like you to remember three words: Purpose— Protection— Peace.
Have you ever pondered what your purpose is here on this earth? Have you ever felt that perhaps you didn’t have a purpose for still being here? While both of those questions are legitimate subjects for different sermons, look at the first half of verse 15 of our text. All the saints in heaven share one glorious purpose, one glorious privilege— to “serve” their Savior God! The same Greek word that is translated here in our text as “serve” can also be translated as “worship.” (See Luke 2:36-37; Hebrews 12:28) This takes us back to verses 9 & 10 of our text. As the saints stand before the throne and in front of the Lamb, as the saints cherish their robes of righteousness, as the saints victoriously hold palm branches in their hands they gladly “serve,” they joyfully “worship” the Lord their God because of the wondrous gift of eternal salvation that He has freely given to them— a gift that the saints know they did not deserve to receive! That’s the purpose, that’s the privilege that our loved ones are enjoying right now, my friends! That’s the purpose, that’s the privilege that we will enjoy when the good Lord welcomes us Home!
Now look at the second half of verse 15. The “elder” says to John, “…and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.” Very literally the Greek here reads, “…the one who is sitting on the throne will live (or dwell) among them.” Picture that truth in your minds, my friends. The saints in heaven are living in the very presence of the Triune God Himself. He has brought them into His very own Home! Can anyone hurt them now? Can anything harm them now? Of course not! They are living under the protective wings of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth! Isn’t it wonderful to peer through the window of our heavenly Father’s Home and have the confidence of knowing that our loved ones are enjoying the protection of the one and only Living God! Isn’t it wonderful to know that we will enjoy that very same protection when the good Lord says to us: Welcome Home!
The last truth that we want to focus on this morning is found in verse 16 & 17 of our text. When it comes to the question of “What is it like in heaven?” these verses assure us that heaven is a place of perfect peace. You know as well as I do that during our journey here on this earth peace often eludes us and perfect peace is impossible to find. Because of the reality of sin work or school is oftentimes a place where we have to be and not a place where we want to be. Because of the reality of sin we often times struggle with strife even in our own homes and even among the people we love. Because of the reality of sin we oftentimes find ourselves overwhelmed by situations we cannot handle and undermined by things we cannot control. But once we get Home all of that changes!
So what will heaven be like? Look at what John is told in verse 16 of our text, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” All the things that our loved ones had to deal with here on this earth, all the things that hurt them, all the things that made them sad or angry, all the negative things that were a part of their daily existence, all the effects of sin— whether their own sin or the sins that others committed against them— they are all gone! They are totally and completely gone— forever!
With all the negative things gone, with all the effects of sin completely taken away heaven is then a place of peace and joy and happiness! Look at how this is described in verse 17 of our text, “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.” What is it like in heaven? Heaven is a place where the Lamb of God Himself provides us with the unending joys that come from drinking freely from the “springs of living water,” from the well of eternal salvation. Heaven is a place where the Lamb of God Himself tenderly wipes away every tear from our eyes and then takes away anything that could possibly cause us pain or sadness. Heaven is a place of such unbounded happiness that everyone smiles! Isn’t it wonderful to know that our loved ones are enjoying the perfect peace and joy and happiness of heaven right now? Isn’t it wonderful to know that we will experience that very same peace, that very same joy, that very same happiness the very instant we hear the good Lord say to us: Welcome Home!
As we gather together here in God’s house on this glorious Mother’s Day I pray that even if we are not able to give our Mom a big hug and say “Happy Mother’s Day!,” even if we are not able to call her on the phone and say “I love you, Mom!” that we will indeed rejoice in the inheritance of the Saints that the good Lord has granted to our Mom, the inheritance of the Saints that the good Lord grants to everyone who believes and trusts in our crucified and risen Savior. I also pray that by God’s grace and by God’s power we will stay close to Him (Pointing to the cross) so that when our journey here comes to an end then like all the saints before us, we will hear our Savior God say to us: “Welcome Home, My child! Welcome Home!”
To God be the glory!