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Tribulation and a Future April 17, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Revelation 7:1-17

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 17, 2016


Focus:  God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Function:  That the hearers rejoice in the promises of God.

Structure:  Walking through the text.


Tribulation and a Future


For the past two weeks we’ve opened up our Bibles and turned to Revelation.  We’re doing so again today.  So go ahead and open your Bible to Revelation 7.  Chapters 4-7 form one vision, one prophetic piece, and should really be considered as a whole, so do forgive me as we break this down.  While Pastor Fritsch covered chapters 4 and 5 last week, there’s simply no way to talk about all of chapter 6 and 7 in a 10 or 15 minute sermon.

We’ve got good stuff throughout these chapters, no doubt.  We have the seven seals to be opened.  The seals are a parallel.  One of three.  John records three visions, back to back to back, that all mean the same thing.  They’re the same, they reinforce each other.  The seals are the first, followed by the trumpets and then the censors.  And from the broken seals we see the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which in pop culture have been described in comic books and songs, but to no avail.  These are altogether different.

We also have the martyrs crying out from under the throne, the sky falling to the earth, the sealing of the 144,000 saints, the multitude of the people of God dressed in robes of white, and last of all, the lamb.  Each of these things is a Bible study in itself.  And a good one.  And since we can’t do that justice here this morning, we’ve thrown a link up on our website to Pastor Fritsch’s Bible class from last weekend, half of which he spent talking about chapter six, the seals and the horsemen.  So please do check it out if you weren’t able to be there last week.

I want to give you a framework for looking at chapter seven.  So take my preaching and compare your notes.  See how this unfolds and comes together.  Let’s read the first view verses:

1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”


Peer pressure has long been a thing, probably goes back to the Garden of Eden.  Parents ever since have trying to figure out ways to say no.  To say no to the daughter who insists that she “needs” the newest iPhone 7 when it comes out this year.  To the son who “needs” the NX when it launches around Thanksgiving.  Be happy if you have no clue what I’m talking about!  ‘But, we won’t be cool if we don’t have them.  We won’t be happy, we won’t have any friends, nobody will want to spend time with us.’  So they say.

And the parents respond, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”  Well, jump off something, right?  That phrase has been around a long time.  Maybe you heard it, maybe you used it.  I guess my mom used to just tell us to go play in traffic instead.  But you get the picture.  You can do without.  You’ll live, you’ll be fine, you don’t need it.

But it’s not just a problem for our kids.  Look at the world of political correctness, the fight over tolerance, the legal squabbles in our culture.  How much do we desire to fit in?  What do we say, or maybe, what don’t we say, so we can fit in?

The idea of being a part of the crowd appeals to us.  We want to fit in.  We want to be liked.  But this is the tribulation.  The world around us is not in line with the will of God, but the will of Satan.  It should tell you something when a porn website has blocked all IP addresses from the state of North Carolina over their recent legislative bill.

We must resist.  Don’t jump off the bridge.  This is the temptation, guilty by association.  One small step at a time, trying to make yourself part of the popular crowd.

And as Pastor Fritsch warned in Bible class, the challenge isn’t only external.  It comes from within.  The sinful self, the old Adam in our flesh wrestles against the will of God.  The struggle that it is to even come to His gathering on Sunday morning, to receive Word and sacrament, to receive forgiveness.  The struggle that we face to not give in to our own desires, which are only evil.  To water down our faith to make it more appealing, which ironically does just the opposite.

We are filthy, we are caked in the mud and the gore of our own selves and our own flesh.  As I opened my fortune cookie at New Hunan this week, it told me, “You have been focusing too much on yourself lately…”  That’s some fortune when you think about it.  That little piece of paper called me a sinner.  It reminded me of the garbage my surrounding culture tries to sell me candy, but also of my own turning inward, focusing only myself, and yet all the while doing nothing but falling and failing.

Let’s read the rest of our text:

4Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
5From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
6from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
7from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
8from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

9After 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.10And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” 11All 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, 12saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
13Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?”
14I answered, “Sir, you know.”
15And 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.
16Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
17For 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.”


Don’t skip over that list.  I know, we’re tempted to skip over long genealogies and groups of numbers, but don’t do it.  You’re missing out.  This is gospel.  This is good news right here.  This is the celebration of the church of Christ, His people, His family, His church.  Twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Remember the symbolic nature of Revelation.  This is beautiful stuff.  Pastor Fritsch broke down many of these numbers for you last week.  10, as a number of completion.  And it’s involved again today.  The 144,000 people that will be saved breaks down to this: the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, and 103.  In other words, the church of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament, the people of faith before Christ, and the people of faith after Christ.  Twelve and twelve, times completion, times completion, times completion.  The number who will be in Paradise isn’t 144,000, it’s a full and complete number you can’t count to.  Try it today.  Try to count to 144,000 without making a mistake, or harder yet, without getting distracted or losing your place.

Even better, this is talking about you and me.  This is us. That in the waters of holy baptism, God graciously calls you into His family.  He takes your filth-stained, blood-stained, garbage-smelling clothing and washes it in the blood of His own Son.  Christ’s blood, shed for all men upon the cross.  And when that robe comes out of the blood of Jesus, it’s not dirty any more.  It’s a radiant white that even Tide can’t beat.

Your sins are removed.  Purchased from you, not with gold or silver, but with the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ has reached out His bloodied, hole-filled hand, to welcome you into the kingdom.  You are His.

And before we forget it, just as we do nothing to earn the kingdom, we do nothing to stay in it.  This is God’s work for us.  That in His Son our robes are continuously clean, no matter how much we muck them up.  That in faith, all of our sins, past, present, and future, are absolved, forgiven.  He has called you by name, you are His.  And He isn’t letting go.

And as though that weren’t good enough, God calls you not only by name, but He calls you into this vision of John.  You see, we are the 144,000.  We are the great multitude from all nations that cannot be counted as we gather around the throne praising God.  Worshipping Him day and night in His temple, where there is no hunger, nor thirst.  No pain nor famine.  But instead there are springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Jesus, our Lord, our Savior continues to provide for us even in Paradise.  The gift of life that never ends, the gift of joy completed, of joy that knows no bounds.  The gift of the absence, the destruction of pain and death and suffering.

And there’s a beautiful image here, too.  Of God wiping away our tears.  You can picture a husband doing that for his wife just after some tragedy.  You can see mother sitting there with her child, wiping away the tears caused by another child at school.  It’s an image of comfort, of peace, of relationship, love, and care.  Intimacy, that closeness of being a family.  That’s here.  That’s God with us.

This is your future.  Not your home, or your 401(k).  Not your spouse, or your children.  Not your fancy gadgets, or your money.  Nothing you can bring at all.  You are part of God’s family, you are part of the crowd, the multitude of God’s people.  Don’t let these earthly things, these perishing things, take away from the reality of who you are in Christ.  A son of God.  A daughter of the King.  An heir of Paradise.

The tribulation, the struggles of wanting to fit in in this current age are only temporary. They are passing away as we speak.  They last only a little while.  But life with the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, where He indeed will wipe away every tear, that life in the Lamb lasts forever.  Just as we pray, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.”



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