Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Gazing Beyond the Grave

Sermon Text: Revelation 7:2-17
November 2, 2014

 

Audio:

 

In the Name X Jesus.  AMEN!

Introduction – The Image of Death

Steadfast Sermons GraphicLooking around this world we live in we see, hear, and feel death everywhere.  We see it in our movies, we hear it in so much of our music, we feel it in our families, we feel it in our bones . . .  and in our hearts.  Adam saw it first.  He saw it in his sons.  He saw it in Cain’s hatred and he saw it puddled in the soil beneath his Abel. Abraham saw it in the form of a ram caught in a thicket. He felt it in the death of His Sarah.   King David saw it in war . . . and murder . . . and the death of his newborn son.  Each generation has been pursued by this beast. And each generation has yielded before its might.  Ours is no different.  The feebleness of man’s strength gives way. The hatred of man’s heart sheds blood.

There is war and there is violence.

There is frailty and there is disease.

There is weakness and there is pestilence.  The wages of Man’s sin is death.  We have seen it in our midst, our brothers Elmer and Warren taken from the land of the living.  Yes, beloved, looking around this world we live in, death’s image is sorely pressed upon us.

But the apostle gives us another vision – that of God’s saints in glory, those who have fought the fight of faith and prevailed, those who have endured the scorn of the world on account of the one crucified for them.  We see in that revelation what we do not see here on earth.  We see life.  We see vitality.  We see vigor and strength and action.  We see palms waving and we hear voices singing.  We see the daughter of Zion streaming to the Mountain of the Lord.  We see a mighty army in battle on earth.  And a triumphant host parading along streets of gold marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion.

Blinded by the Grave Stone – Culture cannot see past Death

We see by faith what the world cannot see, what the world refuses to see.  For the world has been blinded by the head stone. The world cannot gaze beyond the grave.  In blindness they stare at what once was, eyes fixed upon names and dates etched in stone. And in despair they return to an existence unable to cope with life because they are unable to conmprehend death.  For the unbeliever, death is the end, a natural part of life, the next step in human evolution.  For some it is to be avoided at all costs, ignored, even denied.  For others it is embraced, romanticized, spiritualized. Deceived, the unbeliever accepts death’s claim on the body without realizing death’s demand for the soul.

Thus death in our world is no longer the final enemy to be destroyed but merely a nuisance to be held at bay while we strive to progress in the affirmation of our personality.  With no understanding of death, with a refusal to face up to death in our world and in our soul, we pursue the trivial.  Without hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting the only meaning in life is what life means to “me.”  And so, when there is no life after death, everything in life becomes trivial.   This leads either to licentiousness – living any which way we choose, deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil, indulging in the pleasures of the flesh while we ignore the plight of our neighbor, . . . or we despair – the realization that no matter what we do for ourselves or for others nothing will matter, nothing will endure, nothing will last, all is vanity, all is lost.  Failing to gaze beyond the grave not only leads to hell but to hell on earth.

Why do We Live that Way?  (Christian YOLO)

Too many Christians have fallen prey to such a worldview. “You only live once” the world says and too many Christians believe it.  Believing the lie too many of us live like unbelievers.

Rather than acknowledging our poverty in spirit we chase after any spirituality promising success.

Rather than pursuing righteousness we pander to the flesh.

Instead of making peace we take vengeance.

Refusing the comfort of the gospel we seek solace in the affirming psychology of self.

Shunning purity as old fashioned and out of touch we dirty ourselves in both body and soul.  And we wonder why there is no joy in our lives.  Believing the lie we foolishly separate body and soul and eagerly accept the adage that its “the thought that counts” or “its what’s in your heart that matters.”

Not so, beloved!  Scripture teaches “glorify God in your bodies.”  We Christians are not be conformed to the world’s view of life, death, and morality.  What you do in your body matters because what you do in your body is a reflection of what you believe in your heart and what you think in your minds.  What is inside is to be made manifest on the outside towards the Lord who redeemed you and the neighbor He has placed in your life.

Facing Death in the Death of the Lamb

Therefore the call to repentance is not only a call to the nations of unbelievers but also to you who bear His Name in your baptism.  Repent of your sins. Repent of your unbelief.  Repent of death’s power lurking in your heart and death’s sting which has sullied your garments.  Do not turn to the right or to the left but face up to death, your death, in the death of the Lamb for you.

  • Look there!
  • Look to the tree on Calvary!
  • Look to Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.  He is the lamb caught in the thicket to take your place, suffer your death, and bear your iniquities.
  • Look to Jesus the Holy One of God who knew no sin yet became sin that you become the righteousness of God!
  • Look to Jesus the pure in heart who humbled Himself and was obedient in heart and mind, body and soul for you.
  • Look to Jesus whose death defeats death,
    • Whose nakedness is your garment
    • Whose blood washes away the stains of the sins you’ve done and and the sins you’ve suffered.
    • Whose stripes are your healing
    • Whose pains are your comfort
    • Whose voice is your absolution
    • Whose condemnation is your liberty
    • Whose defeat is your victory
    • Whose death is your life!
  • Look to Jesus beloved and face death in the death of the one who died for you.  There is your salvation.  There is your sin. Crucified.  Dead.  And Buried . His death gives meaning to your death and therefore also your life.

Washed in the Blood Redeemed in the Body

Jesus’ death has redeemed your whole person; body, mind and soul, from the pangs of death.  Therefore glorify God in your body.  Your life has meaning: what you do, what you say, who and how you love.  You are His baptized!  You bear the marks of His cross on your forehead and in your heart.  Word and Water have claimed you for His kingdom.  What you think and what you believe are reflected in what you do in your body.  What you do in your body may not seem so great and mighty but what you do in fidelity to the Lord and in service to your neighbor endures.  It matters, not for your salvation, but as a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in your sanctification.  And it matters to your neighbor who needs God’s love given to them, shown to them in the flesh.  Not merely kind words or warm wishes but the full embrace of the heart as families remain bound together by love and gentleness; Husbands to Wives, Parents to Children, Friends and family, neighbor and stranger.

  • It matters as you live out your days as children of God, beloved of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • It matters when you give a cold drink to the thirsty, warm food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, compassion to the suffering, kind words to the distraught and discouraged.
  • It matters as you lift up your neighbor and walk with them rather than walking around or walking over them.
  • It matters what you do in your bodies.

It endures beyond the grave.  Therefore be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The Stone has been Rolled Away

It matters beloved because we are not like the world.  The Spirit has enlightened us with His gifts, called us by the gospel, sanctified and kept us in the true faith.  In other words, the stone that once blinded us has been rolled away.  Death has been defeated.  The grave has lost its sting.  Sin’s  power has been vanquished.  Blessing from heaven has been poured out upon us through the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

  • Death’s teeth have been knocked out.
  • His neck broken.
  • His head crushed.
  • His dominion conquered.
  • His works undone.  How?  By the blood of the Lamb who was crucified but is now risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.

And so we who bear the marks of the savior do not indulge the body but submit the body to the Word of God and the sacraments. We hunger and thirst for righteousness and we are satisfied in the supper.  We are poor in spirit, beggars before our Heavenly Father and He richly and daily forgives our sins and the sins of all believers.

We forgive those who sin against us and refuse to hold grudges leaving vengeance to our God.
We endure the scorn of this world in the hope of the world to come.
We suffer and yet we persevere.
We hurt and yet we are comforted with divine mercy.
We grieve and yet we have hope.
We mourn and our tears are wipe away with a resurrected finger.
We rejoice!  There is a sight to see beyond the grave.

Conlcusion:  The Beatific Vision

Therefore beloved, cast your eyes to the Revelation.  See with your heart what the apostle sees.  Gaze upon the faithful who have gone before you; friends and family, brothers and sisters in Christ, apostles, prophets and martyrs, kings and peasants, young and old, marching together, myriads upon myriads, marching as a mighty people, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people holy unto the Lord, a people for his own possession (1 Peter 2:9), a people praising the excellencies of their Lord.  Look beloved!  They have palm branches in their hands.  Their garments are white and radiant. Though they died they live. Though they suffered they are comforted. Though their voice on earth was silenced, they sing.  They gather together with angels and archangels, with the elders and the four living creatures and all the hosts of heaven.  They bend the knee and they worship the Lamb.  They confess Him as Lord. They rest in His peace.   And the great Te Deum rings out: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.”  Do you see it?  This is life beyond the grave.  AMEN!

 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


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