Signed, Sealed . . . and now Delivered
Temporal tribulation brings eternal reward.
Revelation(53) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on July 8, 2018 (Sunday Morning(281))
Gospel(21), Reward(2), Tribulation(2)
Signed, Sealed . . . and now Delivered
A child comes to his Father with his electronic gaming system in two pieces. It breaks the Father’s heart to see his child in despair, so he goes online to find the needed replacement parts for the gaming system. It isn’t an easy task, but eventually he finds the parts he needs and places the order with one of the well-known online shopping stores.
He has a little bit of apprehension about the seller of the item, because it will be shipping from Taiwan. His desire to repair his child’s gaming system overrides the apprehension he is feeling about the seller.
The money was withdrawn from his bank account through a special online payment system. He watches his email every day for an update about the shipping status. It will take a couple of weeks since it is coming from overseas. The status of the shipment has been changed from “pending” to “shipped.” The waiting game begins. After about two weeks, the status of the package has been changed to “delivered.” The only problem is, this Father hasn’t received the package yet. He follows the online shopping stores’ procedure to determine where the package was delivered. In contacting the seller, he realizes that he had not updated his address with the online payment system. The seller used the address from the online payment system, meaning that the package was delivered to an old address in a different state. The seller was not obligated to refund his money and he never received the parts needed to repair his child’s gaming system.
This story is from my life
I bought the replacement parts for one of the boys handheld gaming systems that had broken
It was a Nintendo DS, if I remember correctly
I never received the replacement parts and lost the money I spent in the process
We eventually replaced the entire gaming system
While the package was delivered, it wasn’t delivered to me
The delivery waiting game
Have you experienced having to wait for a package to arrive?
Have you found that the estimated delivery date has been wrong?
Have you experienced the agony of waiting for a package to arrive and it never does?
This can be frustrating
God delivers on His promises
The scene that John now sees is a great multiethnic multitude of believers standing before God’s throne. They have come through the great tribulation and John wants us to understand from their experience that . . .
BIG IDEA – Temporal tribulation brings eternal reward.
This is the hope that followers of Jesus Christ have as they deny themselves and make sacrifices for the Gospel. As they persevere through the trials and tribulations of the end times, God promises them relief from the hardships of this world.
GOD (Revelation 7:9-17)
Worship (vv. 9-12)
Change of perspective
Revelation 7 is a single unit, but from two different perspectives
“Have you noticed how looking at persons or things from a different vantage point changes what they appear to be? It all depends on your perspective. The city I live in, Memphis, illustrates this perfectly. A visitor arriving from the west is struck with the sight of a glittering metropolis – skyscrapers, magnificent Mississippi River bridge – that rises suddenly to view from the river valley. The same visitor arriving from the east is welcomed by sprawling suburbs – shopping mall, well-groomed subdivisions – that merge from rolling farmland and continue for miles. So which is it, glittering metropolis or sprawling suburbs? It all depends on your perspective, but the best answer is both.
This chapter in Revelation is similar to that. John describes a limited earthly group and an unlimited heavenly group. They seem to be quite different, but in reality they are the same people, just viewed from different locations in space and time.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 123]
Last week we saw the 144,000 believers on earth being sealed in preparation for the tribulation that was about to be poured out
Today we will see that the believers have come through the great tribulation and are in heaven
“As 7:1-8 presents the church militant on earth, sealed and drawn up in battle formation before the coming struggle, 7:9-17 presents the church after the battle, triumphant in heaven.” [Boring cited by Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 317]
After John had the vision of those on earth, the vision changes to a heavenly view
Great multitude from the earth
Multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual
The description, every nation, tribe, people and language, means that all people groups on earth have heard the Gospel
There are individuals from all 11,243 people groups, currently on the earth, who are represented in heaven as followers of Jesus Christ [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 157]
Akin shares that there are still 3,056 people groups who are currently unengaged, yet, there will be followers of Jesus Christ represented from those groups in heaven [Akin, 157]
That is an exciting prospect and promise, isn’t it?
It really speaks to the power of the Gospel
We can be assured that everyone will have the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ
In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse we hear these words:
Matthew 24:9-14, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
We see the same promise in Mark 13:10
PRINCIPLE – God’s desire is that every people group on earth have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and He is able to accomplish that through His people.
We see, then, that God’s desire will be fulfilled as these followers of Jesus Christ stand before the throne
They are standing in a place of honor – before the throne of God
They are standing in front of Jesus as they await their reward for their faithfulness while on earth
What they are wearing and holding are symbols of victory
The white robes represented purity, but also victory
This great multitude is not found pure in and of themselves
It is an “imputed righteousness or holiness” [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 200]
This means that their righteousness, holiness, and purity came as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross
We see this in Revelation 7:14, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
In Greco-Roman times the conquering general would wear a pure white toga as he participated in the parade-like procession through the streets of Rome [Osborne, 319]
The idea of the white robe representing victory is a potential connection between these believers and the martyrs of Revelation 6:11 and the other overcomers found in Revelation 3:4-5, 18
These believers have pressed on and have been found faithful, which is why they are standing before the throne of God and in front of Jesus
It wasn’t just what they were wearing that represented victory, but also what they were holding
While the palm branches represented victory, they also represented joy!
“Palm branches were the ancient equivalent of balloons at a party, a mark of joy and festivity.” [Easley, 128]
Instead of buying balloons for the next party you have, maybe you should consider buying palm branches
This new trend for parties may not take off here in southcentral Pennsylvania, but my guess is that it could be big in California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and any other location where there are palm trees
The mention of palm branches is only found in two passages in the New Testament
The first place is in John 12:13, which explains Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem
John 12:13, The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”
The second place is here in Revelation 7:9
This very diverse group of people are wearing white robes, waving palm branches, and worshipping the Lord with their tongues
Words of worship
Again we see that what they’re saying is said with clarity and is understandable – in a loud voice
They’re not ashamed
They aren’t holding back
They’re rejoicing and worshipping boldly
PRINCIPLE – Salvation from sin’s penalty comes only through Jesus Christ.
Read Revelation 7:10
Acts 4:12, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
1 John 5:11-12, And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Our sin problem (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23)
God shows us His love in spite of our sin (Rom. 5:8)
God’s plan to save His creation from the penalty of sin (1 Cor. 15:3b-4)
Romans 10:9-10, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
My Next Step Today Is To: Be saved from the penalty of sin by believing in Jesus with my heart and confessing that with my mouth.
Perhaps you’ve already taken that step of believing and confessing
Have you taken the next step of following Jesus’ example of being baptized?
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision
You are confessing to those around you that you have believed in Jesus with your heart
Maybe the next step in your spiritual walk is to be obedient by participating in believer’s baptism
We have a baptismal service coming up on July 29, 2018 following the worship service
If you are interested in participating in believer’s baptism, please mark your Communication Card
There aren’t just earthly believers standing before the throne of God and in front of Jesus, there are also heavenly inhabitants surrounding the throne
All of the angels have gathered for this special occasion
This is significant, because in Revelation 5:11 we saw “many angels” that surrounded the throne, but now it is “all the angels”
They have gathered around the elders and the four living creatures that continually surround the throne of God
Jesus used the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son to express the value of one person turning from a life of sin to a life of righteousness
In the parable of the lost coin, the woman encourages her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her after she found her lost coin
Jesus then says, In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10)
If the angels are rejoicing over one sinner who repents, just imagine their excitement over seeing a multitude of believers standing there in heaven
Their worship is directed toward God as they bless Him with seven of His attributes
Their position of falling face down before the throne is an act of submission and acknowledgement of the authority of God
PRINCIPLE – Worship is the only response to God’s salvation.
Most of these are not new to us, because six of the seven were attributed to the Lamb in Revelation 5:12
‘Wealth,” in Rev. 5:12, is now replaced with “thanks”
The worship of the angels begins and ends with “Amen!”
Most scholars agree that the first “Amen!” is the agreement of the angels to the benediction spoken by the great multitude of believers
They are agreeing that salvation belongs to God and to the Lamb
A good word, a praise, speaking well of someone
This is the natural response of the angels to God’s salvation of humanity
When Peter talks about salvation, he explains that the prophets searched intently and with the greatest care to find out the time and circumstances surrounding the coming of the Messiah, but were told that they were prophesying about the future – serving those who would experience the coming of the Messiah
He also told his readers that, even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:12)
So imagine their excitement, and the praise that follows, when they see the fruition of the coming of the Messiah in the lives of all humanity
Radiance or majesty of God (revealed in His final victory over His enemies)
It is what makes God impressive to man
The force of His self-manifestation
Divine knowledge and perspective about the world and how it works
Also the divine knowledge concerning the plan of redemption for humanity
Matthew 25:34, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’”
Ephesians 1:4, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
1 Peter 1:20, He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
We get our English word Eucharist from the Greek word
This is the thanksgiving feast that the church celebrates as the Lord’s Supper or Communion
It is an outpouring of thanks for all that God has done to bring us to salvation
Public and deserved recognition of God’s saving power
It is respect for someone in a position of authority or power
Court judges are introduced as, “the honorable Judge . . .”
They are also addressed in the courtroom as, “your honor”
It is God’s ability to act as He wills
God’s ability to accomplish the mighty act of salvation throughout history
God’s ability to endure
The application of God’s power in salvation history – the working out of His plan according to His timing
Read Romans 5:6
Read Galatians 4:4-5
All of these attributes are ascribed to God for ever and ever – these attributes are true of God, all the time
They conclude their blessing of God with “Amen!,” once again agreeing together
Our only response to God’s salvation should be to worship the Lord
We see seven attributes of God that we can use to worship Him, but there are many more attributes we can use
Have you taken time recently to worship the Lord as a response for His salvation in your life?
My Next Step Today Is To: Set aside time this week to worship the Lord as my response to His salvation of me.
John is trying to understand this heavenly scene and before he even asks the question, one of the elders asks him a question
Reward (vv. 13-17)
The elder’s question (v. 13)
This question was perhaps on John’s mind already, but the elder beats him to the punch
Who are the individuals dressed in white robes?
Where did they come from?
The various visions that John has had of heaven never included a great multitude of human beings standing before the throne
In Revelation 6:11 he saw the souls of those who had been martyred under an altar in the throne room
These are valid questions that need to be answered
John’s response shows that he does not know the answer, but knows the elder has the answer – “Sir, you know.”
The literal translation of the Greek should be “My Lord, you know.”
John shows this same kind of reverence in other parts of Revelation (19:10; 22:8-9)
The elder’s answer (v. 14)
Where they came from
They came out of the great tribulation
In the Greek, the definite article is present, which means that it is speaking of a specific tribulation and not just tribulation in general
Most commentators point to two passages to help us understand the great tribulation
Daniel 12:1, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered.”
Matthew 24:21-22, For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
It is probably referring to the final war, that the dragon wages against the followers of Jesus Christ, that we will see in Revelation 12
We now know that these believers, who are dressed in white robes, have come from earth after the final war with Satan and his followers
Who they are
They are Christians who have come through the great tribulation
They have become Christians in the same way we have, but the imagery used here sounds foreign to us, an oxymoron
If you have ever had to remove a blood stain from a light-colored piece of clothing, you know how difficult that can be
Yet here, the believers garments are made white by the blood of the Lamb
The imagery here is of a fully submerged robe being washed or cleansed – every part of the garment is covered with the blood of the Lamb
They didn’t just dip a portion of their robe in the blood of the Lamb – these believers were all in
It was this cleansing in the blood of the Lamb that purified them and made their robes white
We see the purifying power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross throughout Scripture
1 Peter 1:18-19, For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Hebrews 9:14, How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
1 John 1:7, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Because these believers have persevered and been purified, they are guaranteed a multi-faceted reward
The multitude’s reward (vv. 15-17)
Temporal tribulation brings eternal reward.
Any time we see the word “therefore,” we have to ask ourselves, “What is it there for?”
The NASB translates it as For this reason
In this text it is looking back to what was just said to help us understand what is about to be said
These believers who have persevered through the great tribulation and have been purified through Jesus’ perfect blood sacrifice on the cross, now receive their reward
PRINCIPLE – God promises His people eternal protection and provision.
They will be before the throne of God
The Greek word means more than just serve, but also implies worship
Their reward is to serve and worship God continually (day and night)
The next facet of their reward is that God will provide shelter and protection
That is what it means for God to spread his tent over them
Scripture speaks of God protecting His people and dwelling among them
Exodus 26-30 talk about the tabernacle that housed God’s presence (Shekinah glory) as the Israelites traveled throughout the wilderness
Exodus 13:21-22, By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Leviticus 26:11-13, I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.
John 1:14, The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The things that our bodies are deprived of on earth will not be a problem in heaven
We may have a hard time connecting with the lack of food and water in our culture
There are those around the world who understand this perfectly
During the great tribulation it may be hard for believers to obtain food and water – the basics for life
They are assured here, as part of their reward, that they will no longer be hungry or thirsty
Isaiah 49:10, They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.
Isaiah 55:1, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
The effects of the sun and other sources of heat (fire and lightning) will no longer plague them
We see in Revelation 16:8 that those who are hostile to God will experience the scorching and searing of the sun
Revelation 16:8, The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
Jesus will be their shepherd
One of the primary responsibilities of a shepherd is to find adequate water supplies for their sheep
Jesus will lead His people to the greatest water source
Revelation 21:6, He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
One day Jesus will guide us to that eternal spring and allow us to drink from the water of life
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes
This is most likely referring to tears of suffering
The suffering that we experience here on earth will be removed forever
This perhaps eludes to Isaiah’s prophecy
Isaiah 25:8, he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
“The verb [will wipe away] is a very strong verb that also has the idea of ‘destroy’ or ‘obliterate.’ All earthly pain and sorrow will be removed forever by God (see also Isa. 35:10; 51:1; 65:19).” [Osborne, 332]
These are incredible rewards that we will experience in eternity
Salvation – take that step today to believe in Jesus and confess that with your mouth
Baptism – consider taking the next step in your spiritual walk by participating in believer’s baptism
Worship – set aside time to worship the Lord this week as your response to His salvation in your life
Claim the promise that God will provide eternal protection and provision
In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks plays the role of Federal Express’ systems engineer, Chuck Nolan. He meets with several staff from Moscow to show them how FedEx does business. The most important thing for FedEx is that the package sorting must be completed precisely on schedule. The packages need to be delivered in a timely manner.
He travels extensively and on one trip the plane he is on encounters a fierce storm that causes it to crash into the ocean. Chuck survives and is floating on a life raft in the ocean until he washes up on a deserted island. Some of the FedEx packages wash up on shore also. He opens all of them, but one, and uses the contents to help himself survive. The only package he doesn’t open is one that is decorated with wings.
Long story, short. He is eventually rescued with Wilson, his volleyball friend, and the package with the wings on it. He attempts to deliver the package to the recipient in Texas, but they aren’t home. So, he leaves the package on the porch with a note.
The ending of the movie is Chuck at a crossroads. Watch this video clip of that ending scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvGHSvfnlsQ.
Chuck Nolan made sure the package with wings was delivered.
We serve a God that promises to deliver some incredible rewards to His people who persevere to the very end. We can take comfort and hope in the fact that temporal tribulation brings eternal reward.