Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — All Saints Day
Sermon Text: Revelation 7:9-19
November 3, 2013; All Saints Day (observed)
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
Seeing what John Sees
John sees with his eyes what we can only see by faith. John hears with his ears what we can only hear through his testimony. In our text the blessed apostle is given a vision of the Church triumphant. He is given to behold the multitudes, great multitudes, multitudes which no one can count, no one can number, no one can measure with the measuring sticks of this world. Before him marches myriads upon myriads of the faithfully departed from every nation, tribe people and tongue. They are clothed in brilliantly bright white robes. They shimmer and shine like the God who redeemed them. Their nakedness is unknown and they walk with no shame. Their heads are lifted up as they approach Holy Zion. They bear in the hands no sickle, no hammer, no gun, knife, or swords, for the implements of the curse are not found among them. Their hands are adorned with palm branches. Victory and salvation are theirs, gifts given them by grace, gifts received by faith.
Yes, beloved let the eyes of your heart see what John sees and hear what John hears. For these dear saints live, never to die again. Full of life they sing. Their voices join the throng of saints who’ve gone before them. They sing and they sing loudly. Together they are a thunderous choir in the heavens praising God and the Lamb “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb who sits on the throne.” The angels, elders and the four living creatures bend the knee and bow the head before our creator echoing back their antiphonal praise, “Amen, Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev 7:12 ESV)
Trivializing the Great Tribulation
Who are these? These are the saints, the martyrs, the blessed who died in the Lord and who now rest from their labors. They are those coming out of the great tribulation, those who have left us behind for the green pastures of paradise.
It is this great tribulation in which we find ourselves. We are one side of eternity, they are on the next. We labor, they rest. We fight, they are at peace. We wrestle they walk. We hunger and thirst they are forever nourished. We suffer under the cross they abide in glory. Thorns and thistles afflict us, they endure no tears for God’s hand wipes them all away. This is reality on both sides of eternity.
In our world there is great temptation to ignore our reality and deny theirs. For the world we live in fashions this life as a paradise thereby trivializing both this life and the next. We struggle to take seriously the tribulation we find ourselves in. Instead, denying the wages of our sin we seek to make everything fun. We labor to avoid suffering. We go on pilgrimages to indulge in pleasures. We are easily bored with the Divine Word. We are drawn to the exciting, the attractive, the amusing. The blessed life is the happy life and the happy life is whatever makes me happy at the time. Thus we dirty ourselves with fleshly indulgences. If it feels good it makes me happy. If I’m happy I’m blessed. If I’m blessed then paradise is mine.
But this is not the way of our God. This is the way of glory and not the way of the cross. This is the way that seems right, not the way that leads to life. This is the way that makes sense but is at odds with the Divine Word and the life of faith. This way is the wrong way and if we’re going the wrong way then we’re not marching with the saints, we’re not headed toward paradise, Zion is in the other direction. We need to turn around. We need to change our heart and our minds. We need to repent and be washed. Our robes need to be cleaned and our eyes need to be fixed, not on the fun things, not on the attractive things, or the things that make us feel good, but we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. We need to fix our eyes on the cross. We need to follow the suffering and the blood.
By the Blood of the Lamb
The saints in our text followed the blood. By the blood of the Lamb their robes where washed. That doesn’t make sense. No one washes white robes in blood. No one uses blood to make things clean. But our God shames the wise through the folly of the cross. The blood of the Lamb changes things, it makes things clean and holy. Every spot, stain, and blemish that we’ve earned – the blood has washed away. Every sin we’ve committed the blood has washed away. Every sin we’ve suffered, every sin committed against us, the blood has washed away. Every hurt we’ve felt, every heart we’ve broken, every soul we’ve disappointed, every friend we’ve betrayed, every life we’ve harmed, every time we’ve wronged or been wronged, the blood of Jesus has washed it away.
His blood and His blood alone makes things clean. His blood and His blood alone makes our robes white. His blood and His blood alone gains our entry into paradise. For through the shedding of His blood on the cross our God and Savior Jesus Christ took seriously our mortal condition and did not shy away from the consequence of our sins. He drew near in His incarnation and embraced us in our depravity. He took upon Himself our curse, even became a curse for us. He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God.
Our filth He touched.
Our death He suffered.
Our hell He endured.
The devil He damned.
Our Salvation He won!
Our resurrection He secured. His third day is now our new day. His Resurrection is our New Life. His righteousness is our new robe!
Before the Throne Today, Tomorrow, Forever
Those whom John sees in our text – these did not love their lives into death. These took seriously the peril of their mortality. They did not indulge their bodies but suffered sin’s wages with faith in the blood and perseverance in the Spirit. Some suffered martyrdom and surrendered their bodies to the torments of their captors. Others suffered the frailty of the flesh.
They endured affliction,
they bore infirmity,
they were consumed with cancer,
they’re bones were broken,
their hearts attacked,
their lungs failed,
their soul wavered,
their flesh wearied,
their hope was tested and they fought the good fight of faith.
They did not love their lives into death but in this life approached the throne of the living God in His house and received salvation by grace through faith in the blood of the Lamb. Water and the Word cleansed their robes. Their hunger was satisfied with flesh filled bread. Their thirst satiated with blood filled drink. Their bodies entrusted to the care of the Good Shepherd, the one Risen from the dead, the one promising life eternal to all who believe and are baptized.
This same promise is for you and for all who are afar off. The afflictions which the saints of God bore in their earthly life, we still suffer today. Yet through the divine Word each of us today is called to repent and believe the gospel. Each of us is called to turn around, change our minds, our hearts and our lives and to walk the path of righteousness set before us. That is to lead a life pleasing in the sight of God. Through baptism you have been brought near and your robes have been made white in the blood. Let us not taint their purity with deeds indulging in sin. Rather, let us glorify God in our bodies, serving our neighbor with love and good works. And let us be found where the saints of God are always found, gathered together in His house on His day with His people around His Word and Supper, for our good. Let us lift up our voices in songs of praise. Let us join the heavenly throng and bow before our God and the Lamb who is seated on the throne forever and ever.
The Lamb is in the Midst of Them
Beloved in the Lord, as He is there so He is here. Though Linda, and Rudy and Harold and Bob see with their eyes, we are given to see with faith. What do they see? They see God and the Lamb on His throne. They behold the one who is their resurrection and their life. They suffer no more. They neither hunger nor thirst any more. There is no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears. The Lamb is in their midst, the Savior Himself sharing Himself with them, wiping away every tear from the eyes and providing for them all that they need.
Beloved, the Lamb is in our midst this morning. He comes to us with His Body and His blood in, with, and under bread and wine. Around this altar the saints of God gather with each other and with all the heavenly hosts. We gather to worship, to bend low the knee and bow before our redeemer. He comes to us with gifts of mercy. He comes with His whole church in heaven and on earth. He comes with life and salvation in His hands. Thus it is only for us to believe. And then we are given to eat and to drink and to sing and to march! For we are marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion. We’re marching with our heads held high, our robes sparkling white, and our voices ringing with those who’ve gone before. We march with them. We sing with them. We worship with them. We join with them in praise of our God and the Lamb who is seated on the throne. And soon, soon beloved, the day is coming when we will see them with our own eyes, and we will embrace them with our own arms, and we will stand side by side with them, hearts brave and arms strong, holding our own palm branches and seeing with our eyes what they see, hearing with our ears what they hear. God grant this by His grace for us this morning. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!