Sermon Title: Salvation Belongs to Our God! (Rev. 7:9-17)
All Saints' Day
November 1, 2020
Blessed All Saints’ Day! Does this greeting sound a bit over-the-top to you, perhaps even misplaced? After all, if it’s the day of all the saints, what’s it to you and me, a bunch of sinful mortals?
But, you baptized believers in Jesus Christ, don’t sell yourselves short. This day does not simply belong to some bigshots on earth or in heaven. This day is not about venerating some spectacular Christian men and women who have gone before us and are now idolized as some special class of Christians to whom you and I can seek special favors or help. There is only one person who has died, and in fact, rose to life again, who can be and is an intercessor for us, a helper in every need, and a deliverer for us from every evil. That Holy One is Jesus Christ. No, this day actually belongs to you and is a day set aside every year in the church year to encourage you in exactly who you are in God’s sight and to remind you of the noble and distinguished position and calling you have been gifted in Jesus Christ.
There is an interesting comment made in 29th chapter of the Book of Proverbs that I believe has some bearing on our discussion here. It reads: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint…”(Prov. 29:18). Now, I know that there are many preachers, operating under the umbrella of the Christian Church today, who love to quote this proverb and apply it to themselves and their actions as a pastor. In fact, many of them no longer even call themselves preachers or pastors but they say they are “vision casters.” They insist their role is not necessarily to preach the Bible but to cast forth their vision for their followers, a vision they claim God has directly revealed to them personally, totally apart from The Holy Bible.
Now, this vision they cast most often has to do with a special ministry or mission task that these preachers say is God’s will and purpose for their particular churches. Maybe its opening and running a community soup kitchen… or it’s providing a place of refuge for all the homeless in their community. The vision they cast to their people is often quite a laudable endeavor but often has little to do with the Gospel or even the mandate Jesus gave to His whole Church and that is to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).
In our first reading from Holy Scripture appointed for this All Saints’ Day, from the Book of Revelation, you heard the LORD’s apostle John relay a vision he had been given. But this vision was not cast from dreams John had of what he might like to see or even of what great things he would like his hearers to do for God and His kingdom. No, the vision John casts was given to him directly by none other than Jesus Christ Himself. It is a vision of what is but is not yet. It is what is invisible to us and to our world but is quite visible to God. It is a vision of true hope sealed to you and me and all other believers in Jesus Christ in the blood of God Himself.
So, what does John see? He sees a vast multitude of people, so numerous that no one can count them, all clad in gleaming white robes. They are standing before God’s holy and glorious throne in heaven and before Jesus, appearing as a lamb having been slain. They are waving palm branches in their hands. In total unison, as if they speak with one voice, they are loudly crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Now adding to the glory and majesty of the scene, John also sees before God and the Lamb the four living creatures as pictured in earlier visions representing God’s providential rule over all things, as well as, the 24 elders of an earlier vision depicting the Old and New Testament Church, all totally encircled by all the angels of heaven. All are prostrating themselves before God’s throne and they are singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!”
Now this is what I call a vision! The whole scene brings a shiver of awe to my whole being! The splendor and glory is almost unimaginable! The very magnitude and majesty of the sight truly takes your breath away!
But what is the purpose of giving this vision to you and me? Why does God want us to see it… to contemplate it? Is it just to put His majesty and splendor on display? Is it meant to frighten us or just fill us with awe?
In my humble opinion, our answers are to be found in the song of the white-clad multitude. They sing: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
This cry is more than words of praise to God. It’s a proclamation of personal victory. Yes, salvation belongs to God. He won it. But He won that salvation for you. It is your salvation.
It’s like being among those Los Angeles’ Dodger fans this past week gleefully screaming at the top of their lungs, “The world Championship belongs to our Dodgers! We won! We are champions!” I’m sorry but the Dodger fans did little to anything to contribute to the Dodgers’ wining the World Series. In fact, due to pandemic restrictions, very few were even on hand to cheer on their team during their 6 games. But, none-the-less, their team has been victorious. The very Dodger players’ victory is their victory also. All that victory stands for and means is theirs to share as well, not the least of which is the bragging rights of being the best in baseball, at least for one year!
Dear baptized believers in Jesus Christ, this vision cast before you by Jesus through John is your bragging rights of your eternal salvation. There is a reason this crowd standing before the throne is a vast multitude that no could count. I told you it is a vision of what is and yet is not yet. In that crowd before the throne of God and the very Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, God shows you what is already the eternal reality for you. He pictures you crying out in victory. Your God, Your Lamb of God, won salvation for you. You are right there in front of the very throne of God celebrating in that salvation He won for you. Your God’s salvation is your salvation. His victory over sin, death and the devil is your victory over sin, death and the devil! You have every right and privilege to cry out with your fellow believers: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”
Now, of course, your present reality from a very earthly and physical standpoint, could look almost the exact opposite. Your present life in this world could be looking right now like a disaster, anything but a triumph or victory. But this vision is not naïve to that. The elder who questions John about the identity of these people wearing white robes, says it most emphatically: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.”
Now, many an interpreter has tried to make of this tribulation a certain kind of tribulation or of a certain time period. Most often it is maintained that it is some special tribulation that will occur just before the end of time. But this can not be. If it is just before the end then only those alive at that time will experience it. Yet, this is a vast multitude that no one can count from every tribe, language, nation and people. They all have come out of the tribulation.
No, this tribulation is not one of a certain time period or affecting just some Christians but it is a great tribulation because it is the tribulation that every believer in Christ experiences. It is so huge and so vast because it extends through every generation. Jesus warned all His followers, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 14:27). What is the cross but tribulation? Again, He has warned us, “In the world you will have much tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
Yes, you know of this tribulation. You experience every time you try to do the right thing, the right thing in God’s eyes, and someone mocks you for it, or everything seems to go south in a hurry, leaving you feeling defeated, alone, afraid, or hurt. You experience this tribulation every time you fall into despair and discouragement because just when you thought you were doing so well resisting that temptation to sin in thought, word or deed, you find yourself falling back into it all over again. You feel this tribulation every time you follow God’s will only to lose out on some worldly honor, joy or remuneration. You are experiencing this tribulation in these days of pandemic, racial strife, riots, shut-downs and political upheaval. Although, everyone, Christian or not, has to endure all these things, it is especially challenging and painful for you as a Christian, because your spiritual enemies, the Devil, the world and your own sinful flesh, want you to get frustrated and angry with God and blame Him for them, charging Him with being hateful and uncaring. It’s a definite trial to trust God’s grace and promises when everything looks to the contrary. You see, every true Christian experiences this tribulation. That’s why it is called “great.”
And this is also why this vision is so beneficial and such a blessing to you. The cry of those standing before God; that is, the cry from you and your fellow saints, is not tempered with tears from defeat, pain, hurt, sorrow, or anguish. But rather it is the cry of the hope of salvation. If there are any tears in your eyes, they are the tears of utter joy, of total rapture, in your victory over it all! For, you see, your salvation does not belong to politicians, to a vaccine, to your strength, to your works. Your salvation belongs to your God, your good and gracious God, who bled and died for you to redeem you from every sin, temptation, evil and enemy.
You stand there in celebration before your God, not because you have managed to cloth yourself with a suit of righteous deeds but because your robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God sacrificed for you and your forgiveness. You wave the palm branch as a sign of the victory your God has brought you, the victory proclaimed loud and clear at Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and applied to you specifically in your baptism into Christ.
Yes, dear friend in Christ, this All Saints’ Day is your day! God’s vision of your eternal reality is before you in living and glorious color. That’s why He shows you before the throne of God serving Him day and night. Your salvation is that sure. You are made to see yourself already enjoying the fruits of His salvation. The One who sits on the throne is sheltering you with His presence. You are not hungering or thirsting. You want of no good thing. The Lamb in the midst of the throne is your Shepherd and He is guiding you to springs of living water and He is wiping away every suffering tear from your eyes!
To our God be the glory forever and ever! Amen!